After weeks of frantic negotiations and brinkmanship, the delegates in Vienna agreed on a historic deal to curb the Iranian nuclear programme. The deal cuts off pathways to the bomb, limits uranium stocks, reduces operating centrifuges and allows the International Atomic Energy Authority (IAEA) to conduct inspections is a vast array sites. In return, economic sanctions will be lifted from Iran, allowing its struggling economy to revive, and the arms embargo will be gradually lifted. The deal goes beyond just providing a measure nuclear security to the world; it is a catalyst for the restructuring of Middle Eastern politics. Mohammad Javad Zarif, the Iranian Foreign Minister, has said that the deal has opened a new chapter of hope.
The deal is not perfect and can be called a compromise. However, it is definitely better than the alternative: that Iran belligerently stuck to its nuclear programme under threat of a military response from Israel or the U.S. The deal has come under heavy criticism by countries historically opposed to Iran. The condemnation has been almost instant, and one wonders if detractors even read the full text of the new agreement. Israeli and Saudi fear mongering is at its peak, backed by an accomplished cast of U.S politicians (mostly of Iraq War fame).
The U.S. Congress reserves the ability to undo the deal, yet it is unlikely that it will be able to block it in the face of the presidential veto, which Obama has promised to use. Even if the deal is rejected in the U.S., or the next president revokes it, it will have very little effect in isolating Iran as the other P5+1 nations remain committed to the deal.
From a regional perspective, the lifting of sanctions is good news. Iranian markets are open and Iranian gas and oil can start flowing to nearby nations strapped for energy. This is particularly relevant to Pakistan, which can restart working on the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline, amongst other projects.
The end of Iranian isolation will create a new balance of power in the Middle East. However, this air of finality to the negotiations does have some unintended consequences. How will Israel and Saudi Arabia – traditional U.S. allies – react to this ‘threat’? Will Saudi Arabia seek the same concessions as Iran? Will it start another Middle Eastern Arms race? Will Israel stick to its ‘primitive strike’ doctrine? This deal may have improved Iran-U.S. relations, but it will still breed conflict in the Middle East.