Last week the international community and the Iranian government finally concluded an agreement that potentially ends international sanctions on Iran in return for restrictions on its nuclear program. The deal could open the world’s 28th-largest economy to significant trade and investment opportunities, particularly in the potentially lucrative upstream and downstream hydrocarbon, business services, and infrastructure sectors.
On the plus side, the agreement could also reduce political and security risks for business, not just in the Middle East but also globally by creating a coalition between the West and Iran in the fight against ISIS or the Islamic State (IS, also known as ISIL, as well as regionally as Da’eesh). Shia Iran has as much, if not more, at stake in overcoming the threats emanating from ISIS, a radical Sunni Muslim group.
ISIS first came to the general public’s attention with its sudden expansion in Iraq in early 2014, when it took control of several key cities in western Iraq. At the same time, it was also among the plethora of opposition groups fighting to overthrow the al-Assad regime in neighboring Syria.
By late June 2014, when its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi proclaimed the group and deemed the territory it controlled a “Caliphate” for Muslims worldwide, ISIS controlled a huge swath of Syria and Iraq.
Since then, ISIS has made its presence felt in an increasing number of countries, gaining territory in destabilized Yemen and Libya, and establishing cells in other regional countries. For example, on July 10 the Turkish state media reported the arrest of 21 suspected ISIS members.
In addition, ISIS was associated with the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris in January, the Sousse beach attack in Tunisia, and bombings of Shia mosques in Kuwait, as well as a spate of attacks on Shia in Saudi Arabia.
These attacks are raising the costs of doing business, not just in the countries affected, but also across the Western world as ISIS targets “infidels.” Businesses not only have to take into account the possible disruption to their operations caused by random attacks, but also to their supply chains, particularly those centered around the Middle East and North Africa.
At present, Dun & Bradstreet does not believe that the response of the international community, which has included bombings of ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria, will be effective either in the short or long term. However, a nuclear agreement with Iran could help to reduce the effectiveness of ISIS and improve the overall global business environment.