US penalties handed down on ZTE, the Chinese telecoms giant, are a reminder that despite January’s partial lifting of sanctions on Iran after UN nuclear inspections, they can still bite.

Previously, the Bank of Kunlun, set up to handle oil for loans and infrastructure deals between Beijing and Tehran during the embargo, had been cited for violations. Chinese commercial and policy banks nonetheless were gearing up last year for legal business, supported by a flurry of official initiatives.


China’s “One-Belt One-Road” outward investment campaign envisions a tenfold increase in Sino-Iranian economic engagement over the next decade to $500bn; Iran took a tiny 2 per cent founding share in the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank; and the countries discussed bilateral currency swap lines. Read more

Iran’s Shah Mosque – a masterpiece of Persian and Islamic architecture – is renowned for the shimmer of its tilework. There is also, undoubtedly, a brilliant shine to the prospect of Iran being reconnected to the world economy and of becoming the next major emerging market. As an investment destination, Iran’s potential is plain for all to see: a population of 80m people with 60 per cent under the age of 30, the world’s third largest oil and gas reserves, a wealth of other mineral resources, and an economy almost 20 per cent larger than that of South Africa. Iran’s economy is also relatively diversified, making the country’s $100bn stock market an attractive prospect for investors.

Having reached Implementation Day on January 16, the pressing question now is whether Iran can live up to its potential and overcome a range of underlying structural challenges. The litany of existing problems is extensive: weak corporate governance, a cumbersome and inefficient bureaucracy, high levels of political interference and a lack of investor protections. Read more

By Andrew Foxall of The Henry Jackson Society

Unwilling to go to war with Russia, the west’s main levers for persuading Vladimir Putin to back down over Ukraine are economic sanctions. Their importance was underscored last week, when the US announced new measures against 14 individuals and two entities. While the attention-grabbing name on the US list was Aleksandr Dugin, the academic-turned-policymaker whose musings on ‘Eurasianism’ has led some to refer to him as “Putin’s Brain”, another entity was the little-known Russian National Commercial Bank (RNCB). Read more

By Christopher Wall and Aaron Hutman of Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman

A bold experiment has been launched in the realm of sanctions policy among developed countries. Since July 1, US companies and investors have been required to submit reports on their activities in Myanmar as a condition of making new investments there. Read more

The US has taken further steps to ease restrictions on US corporate investment and business activities in Myanmar, following intense debate within the US Treasury and the State department after Washington softened sanctions against the country last July.

The move frees US citizens and companies to conduct business with four of the country’s biggest banks, of a total 19 banks. All four banks have faced US sanctions and at least two of the institutions are controlled by people who have been on so-called US “blacklists”, naming individuals with close business and financial links to the former military regime. Read more

More pressure is coming Turkey’s way over gas purchases from Iran.

After the Turkish government’s admission last week that Tehran was using revenue from gas sales to Ankara to buy gold and then shipping the metal back home, the gas-gold trade has attracted (almost certainly unwelcome) attention from the US Senate. Read more

By Udayan Chattopadhyay of Ergo

The US’s decision to suspend some key sanctions against Myanmar is the latest and perhaps most prominent endorsement received by that country’s new quasi-civilian regime.

Global interest has surged, due to Myanmar’s vast untapped natural resources, underexploited agricultural sector and huge underemployed labor force. While there is justifiable excitement – the IMF expects 6 per cent economic growth this year – those new to Myanmar will find that it is hardly virgin territory. Read more

The last few days have seen a fresh wave of US sanctions against Iran, in an attempt to put the brakes on its nuclear programme. But cutting off Iran’s oil – its biggest export – isn’t easy.

Chart of the week takes a look at which emerging markets are affected the most. Read more

The prospect of European Union sanctions against Iran is driving up oil prices and sending buyers looking for cover. But Europe should not assume that Russia, the world’s biggest oil producer, will replace the missing Iranian crude when the embargo kicks in on July 1.

After years of delays and billions of dollars of investment Russia is beginning to redirect its oil trade away from the west towards premium energy markets in China and east Asia. Read more