Challenges face implementation of Iranian nuclear deal

Friday 14/08/2015
Defining steps. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif walks into a room at the United Nations building in Vienna, on July 14, 2015

Dubai - The Iran nuclear deal might have been signed and sealed but it is still some way from being implemented and faces a good number of challenges that could kill the agreement in its early stages.

According to Western and re­gional experts who convened a closed no-attribution meeting re­cently to discuss the prospects for the survivability of the agreement, the nuclear deal faces the follow­ing potential obstacles that could stop it:

An Israeli war with Hezbollah during US congressional debate of the nuclear deal would most likely result in more than two-thirds of votes being cast against the agree­ment, which would render useless the veto power of President Barack Obama. Israel could provoke Hez­bollah into an action that could spark off such a war. However, most analysts expect Tehran to press Hezbollah to exercise strong self-restraint to avoid sliding into a war that could torpedo the nuclear deal. “If Iran hopes to normalise re­lations with the United States and see it grow it will eventually have to make peace with Israel or at least avoid clashing with it,” a former US official said.

Iran must comply with the re­quirements included in the agree­ment that are related to clearing its records with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and cooperating with the organisation’s inspectors. Failure to do so will open windows to the opponents of the détente with Iran to poison the relations and break it up.

Iran must carry out economic reforms that will help it transform into a true free market economy. This will entail weakening the Is­lamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’ (IRGC) grip over the country’s economy to allow better prospects for business and trade relations with the West, which, in turn, will strengthen political ties and ensure smooth implementation of the nu­clear deal and its survival.

Almost all participants agreed that, as long as sectarian tensions remain high in the Middle East, the nuclear deal will remain in jeop­ardy.

The sectarian war will worsen relations between Iran and its Arab and Muslim neighbours, which will keep threat perceptions high in the volatile region and subsequently undermines stability and escalates the arms race. They all stressed the need for Tehran to resolve its differences with Saudi Arabia to pave the way for de-escala­tion of many conflicts in the region that are caught up in the cold war between the two regional powers.

The Obama administration says the nuclear deal has broken the ice with Iran and provided a window of opportunity to revive the long severed relations between the two parties that used to be strategic al­lies before the Islamic revolution that toppled the shah in 1979.

“If Iran manages to reduce re­gional tension and improves eco­nomic relations with the West, especially the United States, then regardless of who is the next Amer­ican president, relations between the two states will survive all ob­stacles and likely be better,” one of the American analysts said.

The conferees said the nuclear deal has a two-year window to prove its value and for the interna­tional community to feel its results and subsequently fully embrace Iran as a regional power with a pri­mary role in the Middle East and be­yond. Many observers and analysts say if Iran successfully engages its neighbours and opens its markets for a free market system then the nuclear deal will most likely affect Tehran’s status positively.

However, if Iran maintains its current policy of meddling in its neighbours’ affairs and exporting the revolution, which is agitating sectarian tensions, and the IRGC continues to have the upper hand on all of the country’s affairs, then the nuclear deal will come under too strong a pressure to survive more than two to three years.

The next US administration will need a proper regional environ­ment to enable it to sustain what­ever the current administration has achieved with Iran. Only Tehran’s actions can help it secure the fu­ture of the nuclear agreement and its effects on its relations with the West.

Iran’s biggest challenge with re­spect to its regional policy will be adjusting the role of Hezbollah to reduce tension with Israel that has the strongest capability to impact Tehran’s relations with the West. Hence Tehran will have to figure out Hezbollah’s future role in Lebanon and the region as part of new poli­cies that will shape Iran’s future.