Nuclear deal negotiations may not happen without Iran’s central bank executive

The United States and Iran may again return to the negotiating table in the nearest future. In the past week, the Biden administration has offered to restart negotiations, and Iran has reached an agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency to slow actions towards limiting inspections of its nuclear program. These recent developments have created a window of opportunity for the two sides to talk, most likely in a form mediated by the European Union.

Reports have identified a key figure who ought to be present if and when talks do resume between both parties —Abdolnaser Hemmati, the governor of Iran’s central bank.

In many ways, Iran’s central bank was the primary target of former U.S. President Donald Trump’s economic war on Iran. Much of the economic crisis which has faced Iran due to the reimposition of secondary sanctions can be linked to the success of the Trump administration in limiting the central bank’s access to its foreign exchange reserves.

According to a report by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Iran currently has access to just $8.8 billion of readily available foreign currency. That is barely one-tenth of its total reserves. As access to its reserves held in countries like Iraq, South Korea, Japan, and Germany has been cut off, the central bank has had a hard time forestalling the weakening of Iran’s currency, which is now worth less than one-fifth of what it was worth before Trump’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). This deep depreciation caused imported goods to become more expensive, raising annual inflation rates by almost 50 percent.

Hemmati is a veteran banker who was appointed as central bank governor in July 2018. He had a very impressive run in the first few months before secondary sanctions were fully reimposed on Iran.  Iran’s currency was on course to regain value for most of 2019, before the huge disruption brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, which badly affected the nation’s economy and threw its trade into disarray. Analysts now argue that any new negotiations would definitely require the presence of the Hemmati, as his jurisdiction suffered the greatest of the blows that hit the nation during the pause in dialogue.

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