Iran deal: Challenges, opportunities and impact (The Financial Express (Bangladesh))

Long lasting negotiation between Iran and P5+1(Five permanent members of UN Security Council and Germany) on Iran’s nuclear issue came to an end with the historic ‘Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action’ in Vienna on 14th of July, 2015. In the Plan of Action, Iran finally agreed to curtail the enrichment of uranium and to reduce its uranium stockpile for the next 15 years. This deal also opens the gateway of Iran’s nuclear facilities to be entered by IAEA anytime. In return, the US, European Union, and the United Nations will lift the sanctions from Iran which were imposed step by step from the Iran’s Islamic Revolution during Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s period in 1979. Both the parties felt almost the same pressure to reinstall the relation between Iran and the west. Iran’s economy is struggling against the sanctions imposed by the west. On the other hand, Obama administration understood that engaging in a fresh war on Iran could not be fruitful neither for US nor the Middle East. That is why the world has seen how the parties spent busiest 18 days in Vienna to finally conclude the Plan of Action. Deal ends, but complexities remain for both US and Iran; US president Barack Obama will have to face troubles to pass this agreement in the Republican dominated Congress where Iranian President Hasan Rouhani is also busy convincing his people in favour of the deal.

The most-talked deal generates new strategic equations for the US, Middle East, Europe and China. These equations unveil new waves of challenges, opportunities, implications and impact for all the parties concerned. For Iran, though it compromised its position towards the nuclear policy, there were no better alternative before to choose. Considering the present unstable condition of the Middle East, it was very urgent for Iran to reach a consensus with P5+1 from both economic and political reasons.

For the US this deal serves multiple interests. Firstly, the deal at least temporarily reduces the tension of Obama administration over Iran’s nuclear issue. Secondly, Iran has already proved that it is one of the key factors in ‘Syrian crisis’ and US has very much been convinced that no peaceful resolution to the crisis is possible without Iran’s green signal. Thirdly, the topmost security threat for the US and the Middle East is Islamic States (IS) militants, who are ideologically from the Sunni sects of Islam, enemy of Shiia-led Iran. The US needs at least a dormant psychological support from Iran to fight IS in the Middle East. Finally, the US is not happy with Saudi Arabia for both Yemen attack and IS issue. This deal opens a great chance for US to make a strategic balance between Saudi Arabia-led Sunni Islamic alliance and Iran-led Shiia Islamic alliance in the Middle East.

On the other side of the coin, the US has to face challenges from Saudi Arabia, a long lasting and trusted partner of the US in the Middle East, which is deadly against the deal signed with Iran, a great enemy of Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia believes that the nuclear deal facilitates Shiia ideology-led Iran to achieve more confidence to exert its influence over Middle East region which will undermine the position of Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia is disheartened with the US for the deal signed with its rival. Again, Israel’s position toward the deal is also the same as Saudi Arabia. US’s most trusted partner, Israel, clearly opposed the deal because it believes that the deal with Iran, not necessarily could ensure a secured middle East, a secured Israel; only attack could be the solution to the Nuclear issue of Iran. Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyaho reacted commenting the deal as a “stunning historic mistake”. Netanyaho often threatens to bomb Iran’s nuclear site. Both Israel and Saudi Arabia seek only military solution to the Iran’s nuclear issue. It is really a great challenge for Obama to soothe both of his long lasting counterparts — Israel and Saudi Arabia. Israel might seek support from the Republicans where the Republican bloc also pointed to favour of Israel. Here, if Republicans win in the next presidential election 2016, the possibility of fresh tie with Republican US and Israel will still be intact that can reshuffle the scenario.

One of the widest impacts of the deal is on China-Iran relations. The deal obviously has opened a new avenue to sharpen their relations which is crucially needed for both the countries. Iran is very much important for China for importing oil and exporting arms, again Iran could possibly be a strategic partner of China in the Middle East to play a role. From these calculations, China wished ‘a deal’ instead of ‘a war’. Previously, the world saw how China indirectly supported Iran’s regional agenda by vetoing multiple UN Security Resolutions on Syria. Most interestingly, here, China must face challenges to make a balance between Saudi Arabia – a top supplier of oil for China, and Iran – an important supplier of oil.

The deal is also likely lead to billions of dollars of investment by India in Iran’s southern port Chabahar, long-awaited progress on a gas pipeline from Iran to Pakistan and obviously Europe’s reduction of its energy dependence on Russia. Europe will now get a new oil market destination and the world can hope to see a decrease of oil price.

The writer is a Lecturer in International Relations at a private university.