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Georgia and Iran - The key now is speed
16 July, 2015
After the 1979 Iranian revolution, the international community has not really known how to deal with Iran. And the fact of the revolution illustrates that the US and UK also didn’t know how to deal with it before 1979.

The first thing to do is to streamline the e-visa application for Iranians so that they can get visas to Georgia very very quickly. The second is to loosen residency restrictions so that Iranians can come and live and easily
invest in Georgia.

So Reagan did secret arms deals with Iran early in his presidency then more or less supported Iraq in the brutal Iran Iraq war of during the 1980’s. After Ayatollah Khomeini died and Rafsanjani was elected president in 1989, the US and everybody was preoccupied with the end of the Soviet Union. Iran was still inflexible, weak sanctions were applied and not much happened. The big opportunity came when Khatami was elected president in 1997. By the time the world realized there was an opening for normalizing relations with Iran, George Bush was elected and decided to use the excuse of the September eleventh attacks in New York and Washington to invade Iraq. Bush and Cheney didn’t understand the region and simply categorized Iran as a terrorist state and ignored it, although the wars the US started in Iraq and Afghanistan both of which border Iran were very important obviously for Iran. Iran was neglected by the international community, the most educated voters boycotted the 2005 elections and so the hard-liner Akmadinejad was elected in 2005. Iran looked at the violence in its neighborhood, and logically decided that a nuclear bomb would be a good insurance policy. Bush and Cheney did nothing about this. In 2009 Akmadinejad rigged the elections and there were enormous brutally suppressed demonstrations that didn’t change the outcome. Obama was in office by that time and decided that the only way to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear bomb was to crank up sanctions which he did but which took many years. By 2013, the sanctions were really hurting Iran, many Iranians even those who very much wanted change were pessimistic about demonstrations leading to that change, and the reform candidate Rouhani was easily elected. Quiet discussions about a deal immediately began.
During this time, Georgia was thinking about Russia, the EU and the US. they weren’t worried about Iran. Iran to most Georgians seemed like a far away historical entity. Many Georgians don’t know much about the details of Georgia’s relations with Iran, and real person to person contact for the most part stopped with Erekle II’s traktat with Russia. A few very well educated Georgians understood the cultural ties and some cultural connections in the arts remained but they were modest, and became even more modest after 1921 and general Soviet isolation. The Saakashvili administration signed a visa free travel arrangement between Iran and Georgia that led to cultural and business ties but then two years ago, without announcement or discussion, the arrangement was unilaterally revoked. The Government of Iran was not happy about this.
The key now is speed. Most countries and all big companies are quickly developing their Iran strategies, for when Iran opens up which is happening now. The sanctions will end most likely in about six months. The investors, businesses, and countries that position themselves well now will have a first mover advantage. Georgia has several advantages in this regard, particularly its location.
The first thing to do is to streamline the e-visa application for Iranians so that they can get visas to Georgia very very quickly. The second is to loosen residency restrictions so that Iranians can come and live and easily invest in Georgia. Both the government and individual businesses will benefit from advertising in Iran. Because Tbilisi and Batumi are excellent international platforms for Iranians who will soon rejoin the international community. And for those young Georgians who already speak Georigan, English and Russian and enjoy languages, consider Farsi. It is beautiful, has tons of great poetry and long historical connections with Georgian.

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