While nuclear talks have been held up by - among other things - Iran's demand to have all sanctions removed immediately, the Islamic regime showed how the current sanctions regime has been unable to punish its economy as it repatriated 13 tons of gold this week.
Iranian officials on Monday announced the transfer by the South African government, which released the gold bullion as part of the sanctions relief agreed on in the November 2013 interim deal reached between world powers and Iran over the latter's controversial nuclear program.
"A sum of 13 tons of gold that had been purchased before and was deposited in South Africa in the past two years and could not be transferred to Iran due to the sanctions...was delivered to the Central Bank of Iran’s treasury last night,” Iranian Central Bank Governor Valiollah Seif announced, as quoted by the state-run Fars News Agency.
By the newly extended July 7 deadline for a deal next week, Iran will have had nearly $12 billion in assets unfrozen over the course of nuclear talks, reports the Washington Free Beacon on Wednesday citing US State Department figures.
After signing the 2013 interim deal Iran was given $4.2 billion in sanctions relief, and last year US President Barack Obama threw another $2.8 billion to the leading state sponsor of terrorism just to keep it in talks over its nuclear program.
Indicating the failure of sanctions, Iran's GDP grew 3% in 2014, leading experts to warn that the sanctions regime against Iran has not been tight enough to be effective.
Iran expert Saeed Ghasseminejad of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) told the Washington Free Beacon that the release of the gold "represents the latest sign of improvement in Iran’s economy in part as a result of the partial sanctions relief it received after signing an interim nuclear agreement in November 2013."
He noted that Iran has been allowed to grow its oil industry and halve its inflation rate despite the sanctions regime.
"The erosion of the sanctions regime raises serious questions over Western countries’ leverage over Tehran in nuclear negotiations, and whether reaching an acceptable nuclear deal is even possible," Ghasseminejad said.
Obama has said that in a potential deal with Iran the US could "snap back" sanctions if the Islamic regime violates agreements, but the evidence would seem to suggest that the sanctions in their current form would not be enough of a threat to curtail Iran's nuclear aspirations.
Aside from demanding an immediate lifting of all sanctions upon signing a deal, Iran has also refused to allow inspectors in to examine covert nuclear facilities, meaning that if violations were revealed it may be too late for sanctions to be relevant in any case. Iran is likewise refusing to come clean on the potential military aspects of its nuclear program in recent years.
Senior Iranian officials have stated that the country will use advanced centrifuges after a deal is signed, a move which would allow it to obtain a nuclear arsenal within weeks.