Italian PM Becomes First EU Leader to Visit Iran Since Deal

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi began a visit to Iran April 12. He is the first European leader to make the trip since the signing of the nuclear agreement last July between Iran and the world powers.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani visited Italy just days after the deal was signed.

Italy was Iran’s number one European trade partner at $8 billion annually before a decade of sanctions was imposed on the Islamic Republic due to its nuclear program. Sanctions served to drop annual trade between the two countries to $1.8 billion.

During Rouhani’s trip to Italy, initial agreements were made on long-term contracts that could raise the annual trade between the countries to as high as $19.4 billion.

Reacting to the visit, the advocacy group United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) issued a warning to businesses to urge shareholders and executives to consider carefully the consequences of resuming business with Iran, saying their “big bet could turn into a disastrous gamble”  given the legal and financial risks of doing business with Iranian companies.

“With vast swathes of Iran’s economy dominated by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which remains sanctioned by the U.S. Government and the global community as a terrorist organization, these corporations are subject to a complex patchwork of sanctions and regulations,” the organization warned in a statement.

“Furthermore, Section 311 of the USA PATRIOT Act continues to designate the entire Iranian financial sector as a jurisdiction of ‘primary money laundering concern.’ The international anti-money laundering and terror-finance watchdog, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), recently warned of Iran's ‘failure to address the risk of terrorist financing and the serious threat this poses to the integrity of the international financial system'."

The statement also condemned Iran’s recent and belligerent aggressions, particularly the testing of ballistic missiles capable of carrying a nuclear warhead in defiance of U.N. resolutions. In an outrageous display, the missiles were inscribed with Hebrew words “Israel should be wiped out.”

The group chastised Renzi, saying the prime minister “should concentrate his efforts on pressuring Tehran to halt its destabilizing and provocative activities, rather than prematurely rewarding the regime with lucrative business opportunities.”

Political prisoners in Iran also protested the prime minister's visit, writing a letter from the notorious Gohardasht Prison in Karaj, northwest of Tehran. The prisoners wrote:

We are not calling on you to refer to the rights of us prisoners or the Iranian nation to save face since both you and the regime are utterly aware that the era of such repugnant face-saving measures are over.

We therefore strongly condemn your decision to set on this trip and we urge you not to visit Iran under tyranny which will tarnish the history of the relations between our two nations by this act which is your personal decision.

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