The nuclear deal signed with Iran earlier this year will, on paper, shower more than $100 billion of unfrozen assets on the country -- a quarter of its gross domestic product. It's also fighting wars in Iraq, Syria and Yemen, arming Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza, and testing its own ballistic missiles capable of reaching Israel. So far, so bad; no good can come of even a share of that money winding up with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.
But a week spent in Tehran made clear that Iran's one-off sanctions windfall is unlikely to be anywhere near enough to compensate for the annual losses the country is incurring from low oil prices. Indeed, if the goal is to starve the Revolutionary Guard of funds, focusing on the unfrozen assets may be a diversion.
In the year ahead, the government forecasts oil revenues of just $23 billion, compared to a peak of over $100 billion in 2011. According to Saeed Laylaz, an economist and former adviser to the reformist ex-President Mohammad Khatami, even if exports return to pre-sanctions volumes, at a $40-per-barrel price, they will bring the government half as much revenue as in 2013, at the height of the sanctions.