Yediot: Italy remains “an enthusiastic supporter of the Iranian economy”

Didi Remez has posted another translation of Israeli news reports on Iran’s foreign trade partners — and the example is again instructive when looking at the scope and effectiveness of the U.S.-led efforts to sanction Iran.

Remez, who posted last month on Israel’s booming marble trade (via Turkey) with Iran, now points us to an article by Menahem Ganz in the September 14 issue of Yediot Ahronoth, Israel’s largest daily newspaper, which discusses Italy’s support of the Iranian economy.

Remez’s translation reads:

Half a year after returning from a visit to Israel, in the course of which Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi promised to act to reduce the volume of trade between Italy and Iran, it has now become evident that Rome has remained an enthusiastic supporter of the Iranian economy this year too.

While Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi and Foreign Minister Franco Frattini have both declared in the past that they understood the need to undermine Tehran’s ability to develop nuclear weapons, which threaten the State of Israel’s security and very existence, in practice the policies that have been pursued by their government have promoted trade with Tehran, which has helped the regime in Tehran to maintain its stability.

An examination of trade statistics found that in the first half of 2010, Italy imported €2 billion worth of goods from Iran, more than twice the amount imported in the equivalent period of 2009.

And imports from Iran weren’t the only growth area:

Italian exports to Iran also rose significantly, from €892 million in the first half of 2009 to more than a billion euros. While specific data have not yet been published, it is clear that the surge in trade does not stem from the trade in basic foods. Central Bureau of Statistics data clearly show that industry-related goods, infrastructure work, energy, communication satellites and technological products were typical of the trade between the two countries this year.

The trend is not a new one:

This is the fourth consecutive year in which the volume of trade between Italy and Iran has risen, despite the sanctions that were imposed by the UN on Iran and despite all the promises that the Italians gave to the US administration and the warm embraces that were given by Berlusconi during his visit to Israel.

When contacted by Yediot, the Italian Foreign ministry confirmed the data and explained, “The sharp rise in imports from Iran stems from changes in the value of the currency between the euro and the dollar and the price of oil. There has been no departure from the sanctions that were imposed on Iran by the UN in exports to Iran.”

The data shows that while sanctions have undoubtedly put pressure on the Iranian economy, they have also created lucrative opportunities and powerful incentives for participating in sanctions-busting trade. Likewise, Tehran is encouraged by the sanctions to establish new trade partnerships and expand on existing trade relationships.

Journalists have reported on Italian companies providing support for the Iranian army, Ganz reported. But while large Italian companies appear to have cut their participation in trade that has military uses, “the owners of medium and small-sized businesses who feel the acceleration of the Italian economy trade with Iran while taking a risk, in the absence of government insurance for their activities.”

Eli Clifton

Eli Clifton reports on money in politics and US foreign policy. He is a co-founder of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft. Eli previously reported for the American Independent News Network, ThinkProgress, and Inter Press Service.


One Comment

  1. The Italians have to eat, don’t they? We’re the fools, throwing away the good business that we could do with Iran. If Israel can sell marble to Iran, why are we prohibited from doing business with her?

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