Now that a decade of UN, EU, and U.S. sanctions over Iran's nuclear program should soon be coming to an end with the implementation of Tehran's nuclear deal with world powers, this could release upwards of $100 billion of Iranian assets that have been frozen in the West and pave the way for a surge in Iranian oil exports.
The lifting of sanctions, once Iran's nuclear deal with world powers is verified through passage of a UN Security Council resolution, will reconnect Iranian banks to the international financial system and open its economy to a flood of funding from around the world.
By some estimates, there could be up to $700 billion in unfrozen accounts and sanctions relief.
Iranian industries that have been unable for years to upgrade their technology or obtain new equipment will be able to do so once sanctions are lifted.
That includes upgrades to Iran's oil, gas, and petrochemical sectors made through investments by companies from the United States and the EU.
It also includes the supply of technology and nuclear purposes for peaceful purposes like power generation and research -- and purchases by Iranians of computer software for industrial production.
EU firms will be allowed, once again, to provide insurance and reinsurance to Iranians.
Large Iranian firms will be allowed to sell Iranian-produced cars, steel, aluminum, and gold on international markets.
In theory, even small businessmen in Iran can export things like Persian carpets and pistachios to the West -- although analysts say it will be the government and the Iranian regime's business interests that are the first to benefit from the economic opening.
'No U.S. Trade Relations'
Even though U.S. and European firms will be allowed under the laws of their own countries to open for business in Iran, authorities in Tehran have vowed that they will not allow Western values into the Islamic republic.
Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi has gone a step further, saying in early January that the United States "cannot have trade relations with us -- and so be it."
But Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has set an average economic growth target of 8 percent per year during the next five years.
Some Western diplomats and economic analysts predict that within a decade, Iran's gross domestic product could surpass the economic powerhouses of the Middle East: Saudi Arabia and Turkey.
Of course, Western countries have vowed to keep a close eye on Iran to ensure it carries out its promises under the nuclear deal -- that is, to eliminate almost all of its enriched uranium, to drastically reduce its nuclear capacity, and to allow regular inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to ensure its compliance.
If Iran fails to uphold its side of the deal, the nuclear accord will collapse and the crippling economic sanctions could be reinstated.
Some analysts say that could make potential foreign investors hesitate before making major deals with Iran to be sure the nuclear deal holds.
Tehran says it needs about $100 billion to rebuild its energy sector and another $30 billion for its mines and steel industry.
Iran's automobile factories also need to be upgraded, along with the country's aging civilian and military airplanes.
The lifting of sanctions will allow that to happen.
Western critics note that much of Iran's aviation infrastructure is based on Russian equipment that could be sent into Iran despite the U.S. sanctions. But the United States has made it more difficult for Iran to upgrade its aging airliners.Since 2000, there have been more than two dozen major air crashes involving Iranian civilian and military aircraft -- with more than 1,000 deaths. Iranian authorities complain that U.S. sanctions imposed since the 1979 Iranian Revolution have prevented Tehran from purchasing new aircraft or spare parts, even if only 10 percent of the parts are made in the United States.
SWIFT Money Transfers
Iran's nuclear deal includes a long list of companies and individuals involved in Tehran's nuclear program who are to be taken off EU and U.S. blacklists -- unfreezing their assets in the West and removing travel bans.
In the financial sector, the lifting of sanctions will allow Iran to borrow money by issuing government bonds on the international market.
Iranian banks also will be able, once again, to open branch offices and accounts in EU countries.
A UN ban that has prevented non-Iranian financial institutions from operating offices or accounts in Iran will come to an end.
And for the first time in decades, U.S. financial institutions will be allowed to transfer funds to and from Iranian banks and financial institutions -- including the Central Bank of Iran.
One of the most important financial aspects of the nuclear deal -- an issue that Tehran insisted on during the negotiations -- is that Iranian banks be allowed, once again, to obtain so-called SWIFT codes. Those are the business identification codes given to banks around the world by the Belgium-based Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication. Iran's key banks, including the Central Bank of Iran, have been disconnected from the SWIFT network since early 2012.
Being reconnected to the SWIFT network means Iranian banks and the firms that do business through them will be able to transfer large amounts of money electronically around the world.
Not all sanctions are being lifted under the nuclear deal.
The United States is maintaining a blacklist of Iranian firms and individuals -- including figures in the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) -- who are sanctioned over human rights abuses and Tehran's ballistic-missile program.
With reporting by AP, Reuters, AFP, The Economist, and Bloomberg News