Iran’s telecoms minister says two major internet companies from Russia and China cancelled plans to come to Iran in mid-2020s mainly over fears that the presence could have affected their interests in the United States.
Mohammad Javad Azari said in social media posts on Tuesday that Iran could have used China’s Tencent and Russia’s Yandex to break the monopoly of US giants over internet services in the country.
However, Azari said the two companies cancelled their plans for Iran once they became aware of risks that might arise from their investment and business activity in the country as a result of US sanctions.
The minister said Tencent had declared in an official message to Iran in 2014 that it could not accept Tehran’s offer to expand its WeChat social media platform in the country.
Tencent had earlier indicated in talks with Iranian authorities that it might face problems launching its WeChat application in Iran because the company had been listed in the US stock market.
Azari also revealed in his Tuesday posts that an unexpected announcement by Russia’s Yandex in November 2015 which showed the company had no plans to set up offices in Iran was also due to fears from US sanctions.
He said Yandex made the announcement just a day after then Iranian and Russian telecoms ministers had signed an agreement in Tehran to allow Yandex to start its operations in the country.
“It was apparently because Yandex’ finances was also tied to the US capital market just as it was the case for Tencent,” said Azari.
Iran was relieved of a previous round of US and international sanctions in January 2016 months after it reached a deal with international powers on its nuclear program.
However, the country came under a fresh round of economic pressure in 2018 when the US government pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal and imposed its so-called secondary sanctions on Tehran.