July 17, 2015

The Iran-US nuclear agreement — a win-win deal

Regional ambitions

The historic deal between Iran and the P5+1 over Tehran’s nuclear programme prompts several questions that are to be answered in the coming months as it starts to be implemented.
Iran and the United States claim the agreement was a substantial achievement that will give both countries the chance to increase cooperation in combating “terrorism”, the threat that seems to have found a common ground for both the “Great Satan”, the term used in Iran to describe the United States, and a part of the “Axis of Evil”, as former US president George W. Bush used to refer to Iran.
The fact is Tehran and Washington are both serving their own agendas; yet Iran played the nuclear card cleverly to get as much as possible from the deal. The more the West, and mainly the United States, were concerned by the bomb the more the Iranian agenda was served, the more Israel felt furious of the Islamic Republic’s nuclear programme, the more the price was going to go higher. A Persian saying explains it all: “If your enemy is saying something wrong, behave in a way that makes him say more.”
According to the Iranian rhetoric there was never a plan to make a bomb. This was backed with a fatwa by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and, according to US historian Gareth Porter, former leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini had a similar fatwa.
Indeed, Iran never showed any real intention verbally to make an atomic bomb, and, therefore, there is a lot to be said about the deal and its real impact on Iran, the region and Iranian-US relations.
Iran’s main priority is its regional role; this surpasses the nuclear programme or any other project the Iranians are working on. Iran’s influence in the region, power-wise, is greater than having a bomb, for a bomb is going to be kept for years without being used, as is the case with India, Pakistan and North Korea. Iran’s power in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen represents the real bombs the Islamic Republic has in hand.
In Syria, the Iranian role has helped a defiant President Bashar Assad stay in power despite worldwide pressure and the ongoing revolt against his regime. The Islamic State’s rise in Syria and Iraq gave the Iranians an opportunity to intervene to take back areas seized by the hard-line militants.
In Yemen, Iran’s strong ties to the Houthi movement have enraged Saudi Arabia. Riyadh regarded the growing Iranian influence in its backyard as threatening and has launched a war on the Houthis aiming at restoring President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi in power, yet the war has turned into a crisis that does not seem to have an end in sight.
Given all the above, the nuclear deal could serve the Iranian agenda in the region in joining forces, wherever possible, with the United States and its allies to combat the main existential threat it is facing: the Islamic State (ISIS).
Iran takes ISIS very seriously. As an Islamic Republic, Iran understands the meaning of having within its borders of influence, a self-proclaimed state that does not hide its ambition to unify the Muslim world under the banner of the caliphate.
This is enough for Iran to decide to do whatever it can to combat the threat, even if that means accepting restrictions on its nuclear programme, as far as this agreement will not pose a serious threat to national security.
Iran sold the West a nuclear bomb it never built and the West decided to give up on sanctions on Iran it never paid for; therefore, this was to all parties a win-win deal.

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