An easing of Iran sanctions?

By Abraham Shanedling

As Iranian President Hassan Rouhani joins world leaders this week at the United Nations General Assembly, new discussion has surfaced over a possible deal to end financial sanctions on Iran in exchange for the regime curbing its nuclear enrichment program.

In an interview last week, reported in the New York Times, a prominent adviser to the Iranian leadership said the possible deal stemmed from a private letter sent three weeks ago from President Barack Obama to Rouhani, Iran’s new president. Although the text of the letter has remained private, the adviser said it promised relief from sanctions if Tehran demonstrated a willingness to “cooperate with the international community, keep your commitments and remove ambiguities.”

American official say that Obama has not promised any quick relief to Iran and has avoided any detailed proposals of a plan. However, this was the first time Obama has written directly to an Iranian president – and not Ayatolla Khamenei – suggesting, as some have argued, that the ayatollah has given Rouhani the authority to seek a deal with the West.

As a further sign of a possible thawing of relations between Iran and the West, the Daily Mail is reporting that Britain could be close to agreeing to a deal easing sanctions that have halted gas production from the North Sea’s Rhum field, jointly owned by BP and the National Iranian Oil Co. The gas field, which has been frozen as a result of U.S. and EU sanctions for the last three years, previously supplied five percent of Britain’s gas output.