Al-Monitor | Maziar Motamedi: Bitcoin buttons are seen displayed on the floor of the Consensus 2018 blockchain technology conference in New York City, May 16, 2018.
Blockchain technologies, especially cryptocurrencies, have become a hot topic in Iran during the past few years, just as in most other countries. Few tangible results have materialized so far, but US officials may have actually done Iran a favor as they have significantly accelerated development of blockchain-based projects. The unilateral reimposition of US sanctions and a local drive for transparency have prompted Iranian authorities to increasingly turn to blockchain and everything it enables.
At least two state-backed virtual currencies are in the works, one spearheaded by the Central Bank of Iran (CBI) and the other by the Information and Communications Technology Ministry. Authorities have signaled they will at least partially embrace cryptocurrencies. The head of the High Council of Cyberspace, Abolhassan Firouzabadi, said Nov. 4 that Iranís government has accepted cryptocurrency mining as an industry. The CBI is expected to divulge its regulatory stance on cryptocurrencies in the coming months and recognize the decentralized phenomena; while it is unclear what degree of recognition will take place, the expected move signals an about-face from the blanket ban on handling cryptocurrencies for financial institutions issued in April.
The latest example of Iran striving to expand its blockchain development efforts came Nov. 14, when a trilateral agreement of cooperation was signed with Russia and Armenia during the ChainPoint 18 conference in Yerevan, Armenia. It was signed between the CBI-affiliated Iran Blockchain Labs, the Russian Association of Cryptoindustry and Blockchain and the Armenian Blockchain Association. The agreement deals with transferring knowledge and experience, holding mutual consultations, participating in joint work groups and raising awareness about blockchain technologies.