As US seeks Iran nuclear deal, Iranian traders load up on Cheerios, Heinz ketchup
The sanctions aimed at pushing Tehran to accept an Iran nuclear deal have kept Iranian traders in Dubai on their toes. But they say it's US businesses that are most affected.
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
As US and European leaders fine-tune a new offer for Iran nuclear talks, Iranian traders are busy figuring out how to circumvent the sanctions Western powers hoped would push Iran toward a nuclear deal.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
One of Iran's main trade routes runs through the emirate of Dubai, which has tripled its trade with Tehran in the past five years. Today, the United Arab Emirates is Iran’s top source of imports – far outweighing even China, its next-biggest trading partner.
While much of the commercial trade flows through the Jebel Ali Free Zone, everyday necessities are loaded onto small ships known as kashtis along Dubai’s Deira Creek.
On a recent sunny afternoon, hundreds of piles of miscellaneous goods stood along the creek. Everything from Cheerios, Heinz ketchup, and soy sauce to mattresses, car tires, and automotive parts could be found among the stacks, along with the odd piece of furniture or box of toys.
For several years now, Iranians have had to find ways to acquire their basic everyday necessities, but a fourth round of United Nations sanctions announced in June – followed by separate sanctions from the US and Europe – are more stringent than prior measures.
The UAE, which has excellent relations with the US and Europe – as well as Iran – has had the challenging task of keeping everyone happy. The sanctions have been widely criticized by both politicians and citizens in the region because they affect Iranians and not just their government. That said, the UAE enforces strict customs procedures, and the kashtis on Deira Creek are no exception.
US worried about dual-use goods
On any given day there are 50 to 60 of these boats – most shorter than 100 feet – along Deira Creek, in various stages of loading. Iranian crew on a few different boats confirmed that loading a boat can take an average of a month each, as all the goods don’t come from the same supplier in the UAE. For example, one boat might carry rice, cooking oil and ghee, and a few Sony TVs.
Once each boat is loaded in Dubai it must clear UAE customs before continuing on to Iran, a 12-hour journey from Dubai to the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas.