After months of escalating tensions between Iran and the United States, a nuclear deal has finally been signed. After intense negotiations between the P5+1 nations- the Permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany- and Iran was signed in Geneva. The agreement is one, which manages to ease the pressure on Iran for a six-month interim period. It’s perhaps a small step towards improving understanding between western states and a rather unpredictable nation. Iran tried to hold talks with the US government in 2003 to come up with a nuclear deal. The Bush administration believed, however, that since Iran was weak and battered by sanctions it would not be able to enrich Uranium and therefore decided not to hold any talks. As a result, the number of centrifuges in Iran has gone up from 174 to 19,000. Although there are tough sanctions in place, the cost of enriching nuclear fuel for an oil rich company like Iran is relatively small.
This realization led to the Geneva Convention and the subsequent agreement. As a result of this deal, Iran will not be allowed to enrich uranium above 5% and any further enriched Uranium would have to be oxidized. Furthermore, there will be greater access provided to inspectors in the nuclear sites, which includes daily access to Natanz and Fordo- two of Iran’s key nuclear sites. This deal, however, manage to shut any of the fuselages down. If Iran abides by the rules, there will be no new nuclear related sanctions for the next six months. This, however, does not guarantee any new nuclear sanctions after the aforesaid time period. Furthermore, the sanctions on its trade of gold and precious metals, car-making sector and petrochemical exports will be suspended. This deal has culminated in about 7 billion dollars of sanction release, which is a fraction of the sanctions currently in place against the country.
The deal has been met with mixed reactions around the world. Israel’s President Benjamin Netanyahu has called the deal ‘a historic mistake’. Iran is a country, which has publicly displayed its dislike of Israel, causing it to be seen as a threat by the Israeli government. Last week itself, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini compared Israeli’s to ‘rabid dogs’. Thus, Israel desires a complete dismantling of Iran’s nuclear program but the fact that the Iranian nuclear program has been legitimized for an interim period has caused it a lot of worry.
This deal has also been a source of worry for Saudi Arabia. Israel may be willing to reach a diplomatic solution with Iran but Saudi Arabia sees itself in the middle of an endless proxy war in the region and it wishes that the western powers, united states in particular, be involved in this war. The Saudi rulers see the Middle East through a sectarian lens. Saudi Arabia is a nation of a Sunni majority and it does not wish to see a Shiite majority country gain power. In Iran itself, people see the deal with an air of skepticism but are excited by the prospects of reduced sanctions and better relations with the west.
The next question to ask is- why did US partake in this deal? By going forward with the deal, the US has tried to make a deal with a state, which not only has a very anti-American sentiment but is also a sponsor of terrorism. As a result of this agreement, it has also managed to aggravate its closest ally in the middle east- Israel.
I believe that one reason why the US signed this deal is because it does not want another war in the Middle East. The frequency with which the US has been going to war in the region in the 21st century has had a detrimental effect on its standing at home as well as around the world. As a result, the Obama administration found it particularly hard to garner support domestically for a military intervention in Syria. Thus, gaining support for a full-fledged war with Iran would be particularly hard. However, the immense pressure it put on Iran due to the secret nuclear program made a war with the nation very likely. By signing this interim deal, the US has been able to ease some of the tension and has reduced the probability of a war taking place in the near future. But this does not necessarily mean that the tensions will not rise again in the future.
The deal signed is an interim one and the pressure is reduced only for a period of six months after which, further nuclear sanctions can be put in place. Thus, the idea that this deal is anything ‘significant’ is a misnomer. The agreement can be simply seen as a source of cautious optimism but not anything else.
The fact that there are some tactical constraints on Iran’s nuclear program has of course made the world safer but this is a nation, which has had a long-standing anti-American rhetoric. Around the same time the Geneva talks were held, Ayatollah Khomeini gave a ferociously anti-American speech to Iran’s revolutionary guard corps. Thus, it is unlikely that the nuclear aspirations of Iran are going to decrease in the near future even if that is what the US wishes for. Once this agreement is put into practice, it would also be very hard to reinstate the sanctions on a country with such strong nuclear aspirations.
This is only the first stage of a very long and difficult road. The next step for the ‘P5+1’ nations would be to try and close some of the fuselages. It will be interesting to see how they manage to ease tensions when the six-month interim period comes to an end.