The United States is prepared to allow Iran to recoup up to $10 billion in revenues lost to sanctions, according to a U.S. government estimate of sanctions relief proposed this weekend at Geneva.
Three sources briefed by the Obama administration this week on the talks between Iran, the United States and five other great powers, say that U.S. estimates on the value of special exemptions to allow Iran to sell and ship some of its oil and other exports would result in no more than $10 billion worth of sanctions relief.
Colin Kahl, a former senior Pentagon official in Obama's first term and an expert on U.S. policy to Iran, said in testimony before Congress Wednesday that the package being proposed to Iran was worth no more than $6 to $7 billion in sanctions relief.
For Iran, this relatively modest sanctions relief—compared to the losses it has suffered as a result of its isolation from the world economy—matters. A recent reportfrom the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and Roubini Global Economics estimates Iran's government has access to only $20 billion in overseas foreign reserves that it can spend with no restrictions.
"Business with Iran is driven by greed and fear," said Mark Dubowitz, the executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a think tank that has supported escalating sanctions on Iran. "In an environment of escalating sanctions where the U.S. surrounds Iran with an economic minefield, fear overrides greed. When sanctions are being de-escalated, as they are today at the request of the administration, greed will override fear."