While Congress argues over Iran, Europe rushes to do business there

 The ink was barely dry on a landmark agreement with Iran to limit its nuclear program before a German government plane packed with the nation’s economic elite touched down in Tehran.

They were just the first in a rush of European ministers and businesspeople flocking to a market that is poised to reopen after years of grinding sanctions. Upscale Tehran hotels are packed and tables at trendy restaurants are scarce as foreigners jostle for bargains, even amid uncertainty over whether President Obama can overcome congressional opposition to the deal.

The steady stream of visitors to Tehran is the latest sign of the Atlantic-wide divide between the United States and Europe, where there is scant opposition to the pact that aims to crimp Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Obama and Secretary of State John F. Kerry have warned detractors that they would be unable to reimpose a multinational trade embargo if Congress rejected the plans. The five other countries that helped broker the deal have also told Congress that they will not return to the negotiating table. The high-level trips show that U.S. leaders can’t even keep Europeans from booking tickets to Tehran ahead of the congressional vote, which needs to take place by Sept. 17.

“We are talking here about 80 million people who need energy supplies, who naturally also need health care, who want to get back off their knees in the oil and gas businesses. There are opportunities and chances,” Joe Kaeser, chief executive of Siemens, a German industrial conglomerate, told German television last month.

This article was written by  Michael Birnbaum and Carol Morello for Washington Post on AUG. 21, 2015.