Iran nuclear deal and future prospects

By Maimuna Ashraf

The historic deal between Iran and the P5+1 (US, UK, France, Russia, China and Germany) has finally signed. The deal is a multilateral accord and giving Tehran sanctions’ relief in exchange for limits on its nuclear program. The US-Iran nuclear deal is the most significant breakthrough in their bilateral relationship; certainly it is the positive development between both countries since the 1979 Iranian revolution that shattered their relations. However the assumption on expected better relations between both states is arguable in view of the few statements. Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, recently told Iranians, “Our policy regarding the arrogant US government will not change.” US Secretary of State John Kerry had earlier assured allies: “Nothing in the Iran deal is based on trust.”

However, Obama deserves the credit that notwithstanding all the pressure from Israel, as well as from Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies, he peacefully and steadily pursued the diplomatic path to handle and resolve the nuclear tensions with Iran. And after the deal has been signed, Iran has also agreed to stop pursuing its goal to acquire nuclear weapon for the next 10 to 15 years. The assurance that Iran is fulfilling the deal’s obligation will be given through a highly intrusive UN inspection and surveillance regime under the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). This will lengthen the time for Iran to make an atomic bomb for at least 10 to 15 years as the scope to deceit inspections will be minimal.

Evidently, all this is not going to be that easily and smoothly. Israel’s Prime Minister, Netanyahu, is still doing his maximum efforts to break the deal. Israel, of course, is awfully disappointed. Netanyahu has called it a “historic mistake”, which will turn Iran into a “terrorist nuclear superpower”. Israel has serious reservations over deal despite the fact that Israel is already a nuclear state with an estimated 200 nuclear bombs. A while back, when Netanyahu was invited to address the US Congress on the Iran deal subject, he as expected spoke against it and he is continuing to do that. But after the substantial endeavors on the deal for the last twenty months, the Obama administration is determined to pass it through Congress. President Obama has said that he would veto any rejection by US Congress that has to review the accord within sixty days. Although, the Congress can out veto the president by a two-thirds majority, but it appears that Obama’s opponents might not be able to assemble this majority. If the happenings take place in this way then the nuclear accord with Iran is a done deal, especially after its adoption by the UN Security Council (UNSC).

It is questionable that why Iran signed the deal? The reasons for doing so are strategic and economic. Firstly, if Iran has signed the deal that does not mean that Iran can never produce a nuclear weapon. In fact, Iran can still choose to go nuclear at an appropriate time in the distant future when the trust between itself and the rest of the world has been established. Secondly, and perhaps most significantly, the rationale behind signing this deal comes from a deep longing to restore the domestic economy in Iran. Decades of sanctions have ended up hurting the local population and Iranian political setup ushered into power through popular mandate so that some damage can be controlled.With sanctions lifted, Iran’s economic potential will open up all sorts of opportunities not only for Iran but also for the region and beyond. Iran will get access to its frozen funds, estimated at $ 100 billion. For Iran, the agreement will directly translate into increased influence in the Middle East. Years of sanctions have failed to limit Iran’s significance in the Middle East, but, in the future, Iran will be able to jump in the regional politics so openly and legitimately as an important stakeholder.

Significantly, the deal will have some instant and log-term impact both on global and regional level.At the global level, the deal will bring out Iran from international isolation. On the regional level as Obama told a press conference: “The bottom line is this: this nuclear deal meets the national security interests of the US and our allies. It prevents the most serious threat — Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon, which would make the other problems that Iran may cause even worse.” And he went on, “Without a deal, we risk even more war in the Middle East, and other countries in the region would feel compelled to pursue their own nuclear program, threatening a nuclear arms race in the most volatile region in the world.” While Kerry, opined, “This agreement makes the region safer.” Surely, he means for Assad and Iran. However another perspective has been presented by Torbjorn Soltvedt, an analyst with the Maplecroft group, which tells “Iran will remain in conflict with Saudi Arabia in Syria and Yemen in particular.”

The economic implications of the deal will assure the six major powers to secure the sanctity of the Strait of Hormuz to get a steady and cheap supply of oil from the Gulf. However, Iran will have to wait for almost a year to harvest the financial gains of the deal; the six major world powers will reap the benefits of the lower cost of oil perhaps immediately. In South Asian region, both Pakistan and India will also be benefited from Iran nuclear deal. Pakistan will be finally completing the Iran-Pakistan pipeline, with the prospect of sanctions on Iran lifting in the near future. While India will again import oil from Iran, which has been traditionally India’s second-largest supplier of crude oil, and ramp up cooperation on the development of the Chabahar deep-water port. India is developing the Iranian port of Chabahar with likely US encouragement in the aftermath of Iranian Nuclear Deal as Silk-2 route; a kind of  competitor to Silk Route Gwadar – Kashghar. Thus Iran nuclear deal has wider global and regional implications and has the capacity to alter the regional geopolitical landscape in future.

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Maimuna Ashraf

Maimuna Ashraf works as a Senior Research Associate for an Islamabad-based think tank Strategic Vision Institute. She works on issues related to nuclear non-proliferation, arms control and South Asian nuclear equation. She writes for South Asian Voices, international blogs and national dailies.

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