As soon as Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers took effect, Majid Zamani and his partners set up an investment boutique with the aim of tapping into the flood of foreign business they hoped would flow into the Islamic republic.Progress was initially sluggish as overseas investors took a cautious approach to Iran, yet Mr Zamani, a US-educated former World Bank consultant, remained confident about Kian Capital Management’s prospects. But the election of Donald Trump and his bellicose rhetoric towards Iran has triggered a surge of uncertainty and forced him and other Iranian businessmen to recalibrate their plans. They no longer expect the foreign investment to flow easily and instead are refocusing on their domestic market.
“The victory of Trump was like a sudden brake on the wheels of a car which had started moving slowly,” Mr Zamani, Kian’s chief executive, says. Mr Trump, who has described the nuclear deal as one of the “worst ever,” launched a string of verbal attacks on Iran last week, saying it was “on notice” and “playing with fire”. His administration also imposed new sanctions on Iranian entities and individuals, and Iran was included in Washington’s travel ban on seven predominantly Muslim countries. Many Iranians worry that more punitive actions will follow, and that Mr Trump could try to dismantle the 2015 nuclear accord that led to the lifting of many western sanctions on Iran, ending years of isolation. Their greatest fear is an escalation to military confrontation.