New contracts with IOCs to develop Iranian fields always seem to be just around the corner. Iran is adamant that contracts will be signed before 21 March, but it seems unlikely that this will include the highest-profile fields on offer.

Heightened geopolitical tension is deterring international investors from returning to Iran’s upstream. Iran has successfully brought crude output and exports back up to pre-sanctions levels since January 2016 (see p5). But foreign participation is...