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

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  • August 4, 2015
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The long-drawn-out negotiations between Iran and P5+1(Five permanent members of UN Security Council and Germany) on Iran’s nuclear programme came to an end with the adoption of the historic ‘Joint comprehensive Plan of Action’ in Vienna on July 14, 2015. In the Plan of Action, Iran has 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 the International Atomic Energy Agency (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 time of the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran under the leadership of Ruhalullah Khumeni.

Both the parties felt the almost 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 would not be fruitful either for the US or 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. The deal has been made, but complexities remain for both the US and Iran. US president Barack Obama will have to face troubles to pass this agreement in the Republican-dominated Congress while Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is also busy to convince his people in favour of the deal.

The deal has generated 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.

In the case of Iran, though it compromised its position on its nuclear policy, there was no better alternative before it to choose. Considering the present unstable condition of the Middle East, it was very urgent for Iran to reach a consensus with P5+1 on both economic and political reasons.

In the case of the US, this deal serves multiple interests. Firstly, the deal at least temporarily reduces the tension of Obama administration over Iran’s nuclear programme. Secondly, Iran has already proved that it is one of the key factors in the Syrian crisis’ and the US is very much convinced that no peaceful resolution of the crisis is possible without Iran’s green signal. Thirdly, at the moment, the highest security threat for the US and the Middle East is Islamic States (IS) militants, who are ideologically from the Sunni sect of Islam who are enemies of Shia-led Iran. The US needs at least a 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. The Iran deal opens up a great chance for the US to make a strategic balance between Saudi Arabia-led Sunni Islamic alliance and Iran-led Shia Islamic alliance in the Middle East.

On the other side of the coin, the US has to face challenges from Saudi Arabia, its long-lasting and most trusted partner in the Middle East, which is deadly against the deal signed with Iran, its great enemy. Saudi Arabia believes that the nuclear deal facilitates Shia ideology-led Iran to gain 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 towards the deal is also the same as Saudi Arabia. US’s most trusted partner Israel clearly opposed the deal because it believes that a deal with Iran could not necessarily ensure a secured Middle East or a secured Israel; only attack could be the solution to the nuclear issue of Iran. Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyaho condemned the deal as a “stunning historic mistake”. Netanyaho often threatens to bomb Iran’s nuclear sites. 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 long-lasting friends of the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia. Israel might seek support from the Republicans.

In the case of China, one of the big impacts of the Iran nuclear deal is on China-Iran relations. The deal obviously has opened up a new avenue to hone their relations which is crucially needed for both the countries. Iran is very much important for China for importing oil and exporting arms. Iran could possibly be a strategic partner of China in the Middle East. From these calculations, China wished ‘a deal’ instead of ‘a war’. The world saw how China indirectly supported Iran’s regional agenda by vetoing multiple UN Security Council Resolutions on Syria. Most interestingly, 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.

In the case of Europe and others, the deal is likely to lead to investment of billions of dollars by India in Iran’s southern port of Chabahar. A long-awaited progress on a gas pipeline from Iran to Pakistan will get impetus. The deal will obviously reduce Europe’s 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.