Monday,23 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1255, (23 - 29 July 2015)
Monday,23 July, 2018
Issue 1255, (23 - 29 July 2015)

Ahram Weekly

History in the making

The Iranian nuclear deal is the result of years of tough negotiation and pragmatic decision-making on the part of Iran, writes Camelia Entekhabifard

Al-Ahram Weekly

Last Monday, UN Security Council Resolution 2231, adopted by an overwhelming majority, endorsed the Vienna Nuclear Agreement reached on 14 July to provide for the eventual removal of all nuclear-related sanctions against Iran.

The diplomacy of negotiation promoted by US President Barack Obama and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani thus succeeded after two years of hard labour in coming up with a momentous agreement on Iran’s nuclear programme.

However, there is still much to do before the resolution is implemented and the opponents of the talks in the US and Iran give up their efforts at jeopardising the agreement.

The US Congress has 60 days to review it, but with the UN Resolution signalling the international community’s approval of the deal it will be hard for its opponents in congress to sink it.

What is worrying opponents of the deal are concerns over the verification of Iran’s implementation of its stipulations. They worry that a regime with a history of supporting groups like Hamas and Hizbullah and being a threat to its neighbours may not have changed in a way deserving the removal of sanctions against it. 

But the reality is that Iran has given up a great deal in order to convince the world powers to lift the sanctions against it. Iran’s nuclear programme, built under the tightest international sanctions over a decade and costing the country a fortune, is now to be dismantled, with all this investment turning to ashes.

For many observers, Iran’s acceptance of the deal’s condition that it dismantle major parts of its nuclear programme came as a great surprise. The restrictions implemented on Iran’s nuclear programme as part of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) have never been applied to other members of the NPT.

The country’s investment of hundreds of billions of dollars in a programme that technically no one could find any economic logic for except for the purposes of the military and security has now shrunk to a very basic programme. Of course, Iran is able to keep its uranium-enrichment programme, but this is far less than what the country had been doing in recent years.

Fears of possible clashes between the West and Iran in an already unstable part of the world, the Middle East, doubtless made the negotiators come to the conclusion that it was better to accept each other’s conditions in the interests of peace and prosperity. The Vienna Agreement dismantles Iran’s capacity to make nuclear weapons, with Iran accepting its limitations and restrictions in return for economic prosperity.

The country’s paralysed economy has already led many Iranians to a level of poverty never seen before, even during the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s. A frustrated and growing population with no future and facing long periods of unemployment could have been enough to explode the system from within. In order to prevent such an outcome and a possible confrontation with the West, the best option on the table for Iran was to make peace with the rest of the world, thereby helping to boost its economy.

The agreement will also lead to new business opportunities for foreign investors in Iran, and they are already lining up to enter the country’s largely untouched markets. Iran knew that it wasn’t guaranteed that the talks would continue beyond the next presidential elections in the United States, or that the same options would remain on the table, these having been inherited from the time of former US president George W Bush.

Based on the Vienna Agreement, Iran will be allowed to keep 5,000 of its first generation centrifuges for the enrichment of uranium, with restrictions continuing for 10 to 15 years under the tight supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

The unique opportunity the agreement represents could turn Iran into a new China economically, though nothing has changed in terms of democracy in Iran or the opening of the society to social rights activists.

The nuclear deal was a historic event because common ground was reached between Iran and the US, two countries which, according to Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, are in different worlds. A day after the agreement was reached in Vienna, Khamenei also sent a message to the Western powers to the effect that he was not interested in opening up on other matters beside the nuclear one, regardless of the Western powers’ interest in regional issues.

However, even if Khamenei has made it clear that he does not want to discuss regional issues, these will certainly be the next goal for Obama before he leaves office, including tackling the crises in Iraq and Syria. In order to so, Iran’s participation will be crucial. 

Perhaps Khamenei is trying to convince his supporters in the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, major opponents of the agreement, that nothing will change as a result of the deal.

As much as UN Resolution 2231 benefits Iran by lifting the sanctions related to its nuclear programme, it also includes other important sanctions should Iran cheat on its side of the deal.

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