Iranian officials claim the United States is asking Tehran to form a joint chamber of commerce and that the issue could come up when Iranian President Hassan Rouhani travels to America in September, according to Persian-language reports flagged by the CIA’s Open Source Center.
Mohsen Jalalpour, the head of Iran’s Chamber of Commerce, said in a recent interview with Iranian journalists that the Obama administration has made overtures to the Islamic Republic, asking it to form a partnership.
The United States has "begun efforts to establish a joint chamber of commerce with Iran," Jalalpour told reporters, according to Iran’s Tasnim News Agency.
The announcement comes as Iran gears up to receive some $150 billion in sanctions relief under a recently inked nuclear deal that will enable Iran to conduct business on an international scale.
While the recently inked accord focuses primarily on Iran’s nuclear program, the Obama administration has expressed hope the agreement could lead to closer ties between the two nations.
If the United States were to establish such a body, Iran would be required under its own law to do the same, according to Jalalpour.
"If an Iran-U.S. joint chamber of commerce is established in the U.S., we will also establish a joint chamber of commerce in Iran as per the country's laws," he said.
While the United States has not made a formal request to form this joint venture, Jalalpour predicted that an offer would be extended in September, when Rouhani is in the United States for meetings.
The Iran "Chamber of Commerce has not received any official request in this regard so far," he was quoted as saying. "We think this would happen during [President] Rouhani's visit to the U.S. in September and meetings and discussions would be held between [both countries'] economists in this connection."
Jalalpour said that under Iranian law, it would have to establish its own branch of the joint chamber of commerce within two months.
A State Department official who spoke to the Washington Free Beacon denied that such an effort is underway.
"We’ve seen those news reports," the official said. "The U.S. government has nothing to do with this effort and does not endorse or support it in any way."
Michael Rubin, a former Pentagon adviser, said Jalalpour’s claims are significant because they highlight how the Obama administration is seeking to turn Tehran into an ally.
"It's woefully premature to encourage business with a country whose commitment to curtail its nuclear program or acquiesce to inspections is still far from certain," Rubin added. "Obama is probably already trying to pin down a meeting when Rouhani is in town. You can bet that there will be no finding of Iranian noncompliance in the interim if it would ruin a White House photo-op."
Rubin criticized the nuclear deal as "a moral collapse" and asked: "What's next? An Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps recruiting center on Dupont Circle?"