Aymen IjazThursday, December 19, 2013 - With the regime change in Iran since June 2013, the world community has witnessed a breakthrough in Iranian-US relations. Both the governments have shown deeps concerns to find a peaceful settlement of their decade long Iranian nuclear standoff. The years long imposition of economic sanctions, down sliding economy, misperceived international image, past experiences of failed negotiation attempts and diplomatic isolation has led Rouhani’s government to act in a more pragmatic and moderate manner this time. Iran has finally opened up grounds for negotiations with the West and particularly USA. It has concluded an interim agreement with US, Russia, UK, China, France and Germany (P5+1) for a period of six month unless a long term comprehensive agreement could be reached between the two.
The agreement has somehow put limits on Iranian nuclear programme against meager relief of 5-7 billion dollars. The agreement curtails Iran form enrichment of uranium above 5%, dilute its already stockpiled 20%-enriched uranium, restrict its nuclear activities at Fordow, Arak reactors and Natanz Fuel Enrichment plant, prohibits installation of more centrifuges and dismantle more than half of its existing centrifuges, its nuclear facilities at Natanz and Arak would come under IAEA inspection, Iran would stop construction of its heavy water reactor at Arak. However Iran will continue its R&D activities and would be treated equal to NNWS under the NPT.Plus, there will be no additional sanctions on Iran in this interim period.
According to strategic analysts, the Iranian-US nuclear deal is a game changer in world politics. The option of military confrontation between US-Iran would be ruled out. It would help in improvement of Iranian diplomatic posture and economic standing in the international arena. There would be resumption of Iranian trade in oil and gas sector and in mining sector. Iran would freely engage in bilateral trade agreements with EU, CARs and SA countries. It would enhance its economic activities and would help in maintaining peace and security in the region.
Some states like China, Russia, France and Germany have warmly welcomed this deal and called it a turning point to maintain nuclear non-proliferation system and to bring harmony and stability in the Middle East. However, with this Iran-US rapprochement some states have adopted more cautious, skeptical and apprehensive position.
The deal has direct negative impact on Washington-Riyadh relations. The Saudi-Iran ideological rift, threat of Iran’s nuclear know how , strong influence over rampant Shia/Sunni violence in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Bahrain and Iranian regional goals for power and influence in the Persian Gulf and Middle East are contrary to Riyadh’s regional and strategic interests. One would even expect divergence of US-Israeli interests over Palestinian issue after the deal. The American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) would be more rigid over peaceful settlement of Palestinian dispute. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has clearly called the deal “A Historic Mistake”, so Israel threatened by Iran’s nuclear programme may demand more strong nuclear conditions on Iran and to provide nuclear security guarantees and assurances to regional players, NNWS and particularly to Israel and Saudi Arab before conclusion of the comprehensive agreement.
Some nuclear strategists believe that it may cause Saudi Arab out of its security concerns to spend heavily on nuclear technology or advance for achieving its own nuclear capability in the near future as the threat of Iran building a nuclear bomb can never be ignored. On the Iranian side, this U-turn in Iran-US relations may persuade Iran to dilute its support for Assad regime in the Syrian Conflict and continue backing of Pro-Irani regime of Prime Minister Nouri-al-Maliki in Iraq. Thus, Iran would have more dominant role in the regional politics as a strategic ally of USA and being more influential player than the past.
In the context of South Asian region, Iran would play more active role in post-Nato withdrawal scenario. With the elections due in Afghanistan in next few months, Iran would favour a pro-Iranian democratic regime, as it has always opposed Al-Qaeda and Talibans. In order to balance out Indian, Pakistani, Chinese and Russian influence in Afghanistan, Iran is already involved in rehabilitation and reconstruction process in Afghanistan by high investments in field of media, education and civil society projects.
The US extension of six months waiver to China, South Korea and India in exchange for reduction in their oil purchase from Iran earlier this year would help increase in oil and gas trade with India and China. The deal may attract India to rejoin IPI project by putting aside its security, cost and payment issues. As far as Pakistan is concerned, the deal is a positive move in the light of its IP project. Pakistan demands a similar waiver as granted by US to other countries engaged in trade with Iran. Pakistan-Iran relations would improve and Pakistan would be more independent to engage with Iran in regional and bilateral issues.
In short, Iran-US deal is a milestone in Iran-US relations and in the world nuclear history. It has brought prospects and challenges for Iran, US and the key players at both regional and global level. As there is nothing permanent in world politics, so in order to analyze the ultimate impact of this deal, one must keep his fingers crossed for the next six months to see its real consequences before a final agreement could be reached.
— The writer works for IPRI.