Iran Nuclear Deal: Challenges and Opportunities

It is not like the Treaty of Versailles 1919 which favoured the victors and victimized the defeated powers. As rightly highlighted by the Foreign Minister of Iran Mohammad Javad Zarif, it is the treaty which provides a win-win solution to end the perennial conflict between the west and Iran. Amid the bloodshed and scourge of war in the Middle East, the major powers and Iran have given a reason to the world to be hopeful for the prospects of peace, progress and prosperity. There is no escaping the fact that the Iran Nuclear Deal is very significant indeed: as the aptly named Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) suggests, the constructive engagement really aims to resolve issues peacefully irrespective of the complexities presented by the circumstances. After the heady days of the Islamic Revolution of 1979, which toppled the pro-American government in Tehran and disarticulated American hegemony in the region, the United States of America and Islamic Republic of Iran came to be at loggerheads.

Equally, the hostage crisis of 1979, the American sponsored invasion of Iran by former Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein, the deplorable Vincennes incident (which caused the death of 290 Iranians) and sweeping sanctions aggravated the situation by adding fuel to the fire. In such volatile circumstances, it was difficult to foresee that the Islamic Republic would extend a hand of co-operation to a country which it calls Great Satan. Nevertheless, the change in the reins of power in Iran’s June 2013 elections, which catapulted the moderate and pragmatic Hassan Rouhani into office, transformed the discourse. He reached out to America and signaled that he wanted to secure a negotiated settlement to the thorny disagreement of the past 35 years. Consequently, with sincere commitment and strong determination, the western powers and Iran succeeded in hammering out a deal in July 2015 to peacefully and amicably resolve the controversial nuclear issue.

Pursuant to the deal, Iran has agreed to limit its nuclear program by eliminating 98 per cent of enriched uranium stockpile, removing two-thirds of centrifuges and not building heavy water reactors for fifteen years. Equally, Iran has also agreed to put its entire nuclear infrastructure under rigorous oversight of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). In return, nuclear related sanctions on Iran would be lifted and its frozen assets in foreign accounts would be released.

If the deal is implemented in letter and spirit, it will not only benefit the parties involved in the negotiations, but also the regional actors like Pakistan, Turkey and Gulf monarchies. Iran has the second largest gas and fourth largest oil reserves. It is located at the location of significant strategic importance. Above all, it possesses regional leverage having a great deal of influence over the regimes in Syria, Lebanon, Bahrain, Iraq and Yemen. Owing to the rapidly changing security situation in the Middle East, the role of Iran has always been very important and Tehran’s sphere of influence is on the rise. The Americans, it seems can bring only peace in Syria and Yemen with the co-operation of Iran. Iran is also very critical in defeating Daesh (ISIS) if the recent victories of Shia groups over Daesh militants are taken into consideration. While commenting on the deal, Muhammad Javad Zarif said that the deal opened new horizons for dealing with the serious problems that affect our international community. This statement reveals Iran’s willingness to actively participate in a process aimed at tackling issues of International concern.

Moreover, the deal provides ample economic opportunities to Europe which is pursuing its commendable mission of extending its outreach throughout the world. The eagerness of Europe to do business with Iran can be gauged from the fact that foreign ministers of France and Italy and various business leaders belonging to European countries paid visit to Iran to enhance trade and co-operation. For example, a recent report in the Guardian says:

European Union (EU) government ministers and business leaders are racing to begin new era of cooperation with Tehran. France, Germany and Italy are among EU countries acting as if sanctions have already been lifted, visiting Iran in search of potentially mouth-watering trade and financial deals.

It is believed that Iran can meet the energy demands of Europe enabling the letter to break the monopoly of Russia whose aggressive postures In Ukraine have angered the west. In an interview to the Tehran Times, the eminent professor of International business Hossein Askari remarked:

Europe is looking to break monopoly of Russia as its supplier of gas and a piped gas from Iran looks increasingly attractive.

The process to materialize such suggestions has not yet started, but informal discussions are underway to identify various routes for transporting Iranian gas to Europe. Among all the routes, Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) and Iran-Turkey-Europe Pipeline (ITE) are prominent in the discussions being held. Akin Unwer, a Professor of International Relations at Kadir Has University in Istanbul, wrote in his article:

Turkey has shown interest in Iran’s gas fields in South pars and it is ready of becoming a regional energy hub, with the primary intention to transit natural gas to Europe.

Similarly, the landmark nuclear agreement is a sign of hope for the energy starved Pakistan, which is a country passing through critical times as regards its energy needs. In its drive to ensure sustainable economic growth, which will not be possible without sufficient energy supply, Pakistan is reaching out to countries with rich oil and gas resources.  Various projects like TAPI and Kuwait LPG gas import are under consideration. Nevertheless, owing to our geographical proximity and the existence of cordial relations, Iran is a sister nation which is the preferable option for Pakistan to meet its spiralling energy demands. Prior to the deal, it was very difficult for Pakistan to implement the important Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline deal. However, the historic breakthrough between Iran and the (western) world powers has breathed new life to the gas pipe line project. This was one of the main factors due to which Pakistan wholeheartedly welcomed the rapprochement between Iran and P5+1. Besides, the deal paves the way for both neighbouring countries to exploit their economic potential and co-operate with each other in international arena on the issues of mutual interests.

The primary beneficiary of all the (potential) foregoing economic engagements will be Iran. The country has suffered a lot due to crippling sanctions which isolated it from the world market. But the historic agreement has cleared the way for Iran to interact with the world and develop its economy. Sustainable economic growth is very important to improve the plight of Iranians who had gone through years of agony and misery. For this, implementation of the JCPOA agreed between Iran and P5+1 on 14 July, 2015 is very necessary. There are various challenges being faced by parties to the agreement to implement it. Some of these challenges are discussed below.

Being the sole super power in the world and leader of the negotiations prior to the deal, America bears the moral responsibility to ensure proper implementation of the agreement which is unanimously endorsed by the United Nations Security Council. However, the Obama administration is itself facing problems within America because hardliners oppose the deal. The Republican dominated Congress has 60 days from 14 July to review the agreement and it has to either approve or disapprove the deal. President Obama has threatened to veto in the event Congress disapproves it. In such scenario, Congress would need two-third majority to over-ride presidential veto. For this, Republicans are short of 12 votes in the Senate where it enjoys marginal majority. Analysts suggest that it would not be easy for Republicans to attain the required votes to overrule the presidential veto. The Obama Administration is trying hard to convince the people of America that the deal was most suitable option to prevent Iran from going nuclear and to ensure security of its allies in the Middle East. Irrespective of this, the Republicans are adamant to kill the Iran nuclear deal. An influential Congressman Peter Roskam presented a resolution in the house of Representative to mobilize support against the deal. It was mentioned in the resolution that:

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action [JCPOA] fails to address Iran’s egregious human rights record, Iran’s role as the world’s leading state sponsor of international terrorism, and Iran’s unjust imprisonment of innocent United States citizens.

While commenting on the resolution, Congressman Peter Rosman said that:

Congress will do everything in our power to shut down an accord that so utterly fails to shut down Iran’s nuclear program.

Importantly, Iran has inked the nuclear deal with all major powers which, along with the America, include Russia, China, Britain, Germany and France. Equally, European Union and United Nations Security Council too have endorsed the deal. Besides, as mentioned above, European Countries have approached Iran to enhance trade ties and bilateral co-operation. Against this backdrop, if Congress rejects the deal agreed between Iran and p5+1, United States will lose international standing and global trust and credibility as a peace maker. While responding to the objections of congressmen, Secretary of State John Kerry also raised this point. Just a few days back, Obama expressed fear of inevitable war in Middle East if the nuclear deal is rejected by the Congress. The problem, in fact, is that the opposition to the deal has been galvanized by many actors in America. Among them, the government of Israel and the Jewish lobby in America are extremely powerful. In an article published in Washington post, Israel’s ambassador to the UN Ron Dermer wrote that:

the deal announced today in Vienna is breathtaking in its concessions to an Iranian regime that is the foremost sponsor of terror in the world, is on a march of conquest in the Middle East, is responsible for the murder and maiming of thousands of U.S. soldiers, and vows and works to annihilate the one and only Jewish state….. By agreeing to temporary restrictions on its nuclear program today, Iran has cleared its path to many nuclear bombs tomorrow.

While highlighting problems in the deal, he emphasized that the deal should not be accepted by people of America and Congress as it will pave the way for Iran to expand its terror activities, destabilize the Middle East further and subsequently threaten Israel.

The Obama administration will try hard to gather support for the deal as the rapprochement has been labeled as Obama’s foreign policy legacy. It has already succeeded in persuading Gulf countries to accept the deal as the best option to resolve Iran’s nuclear impasse. Obviously this success will weaken the argument of opponents of the deal in America who say that the agreement threatens security of their allies in the Middle East. However, uncertainty will prevail while the (pending) deal is under review in Congress.

If the deal is approved and implemented in letter and spirit, it will open the way for the negotiated settlement of various issues. It will strengthen diplomatic channels and discredit war mongering and conflict. Consequently, prospects for peace and prosperity will be strengthened. As Pakistanis we are eager that our neighbouring nation of Iran should not be made to suffer any longer.

As the Iranians so proudly proclaimed in 1979:

Shah Raft, Emam Amad …

Author: Faraz Hussain Rahu, MSc International Relations (final year) is a student in National Defence University Islamabad. He is currently an intern at The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs, Karachi.

Email: pakistanhorizon@hotmail.co.uk, links and editing by Editor

3 Comments

Filed under Congress, Disarmament, Discussion, Energy, Israel, Pakistan Horizon, Politics, Sanctions, The Middle East, United States

3 responses to “Iran Nuclear Deal: Challenges and Opportunities

  1. Pingback: Iran Deal: Vienna Agreement, JCPOA | PIIA Library Blog

  2. Pingback: The Middle East in Turmoil: A Talk by Ambassador Karamatullah Ghori | Pakistan Horizon

  3. Pingback: Pakistan’s Place in Iran’s Strategic Thinking: A Talk by Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister | Pakistan Horizon

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