Setting a Precedent

Business & Markets Desk
Setting a PrecedentSetting a Precedent

After a long and drawn out dispute over the scale and scope of Tehran’s nuclear energy program, a historic deal between the permanent members of the United Nation Security Council—the US, Britain, France, Russia, China—plus Germany and Iran was reached on July 14. It is slated to end years of sanctions against Tehran in exchange for limiting its nuclear activities, and marking one of the turning points in Iran’s contemporary history, and that of the Middle East.

At the heart of these negotiations was Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and his strong team, namely his deputy Abbas Araqchi and head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran Ali-Akbar Salehi.

Zarif and his team got the six powers to ultimately accept Iran’s right to continue enriching uranium - a matter seen as national pride and a requirement for Iran’s future energy needs, which are until now over dependent on fossil fuels. Iran’s nuclear infrastructure will remain intact while R&D into medical and commercial usage of nuclear energy will continue, albeit with limits.           

This will allow Tehran to transfer technology from abroad and build future nuclear power plants by itself. All of this was previously denied through a long list of penalties and embargos.

Furthermore, the nuclear negotiations opened “a new chapter of hope” as Zarif said, in relations with the West, which now see Iran as a viable economic partner and the largest market to open up after the Soviet Union became history.  This is largely due to change in attitude towards Iran—brought about by acknowledging it as a power the West should negotiate with—than the removal of sanctions against it. Throughout the marathon talks and even after the deal was clinched it faces opposition from malignant quarters. Chief among which is the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who called it a “bad mistake of historical proportions.”

The Republican Party, which dominates the US Senate, has also long maintained that Iran should dismantle and reverse its nuclear program, and has pushed for more stringent sanctions along with threats of military action. But such stances are outdated and long divorced from the vivid reality of international relations.

What transpired over the past two years is a testimony of the fact that Iran will not forgo its peaceful nuclear program, even under further sanctions. Developments in the region and in Iran’s immediate neighborhood are a good teacher. Military hostility will never produce the desired results sought by its advocates. It will indeed be ineffective and costly leading to a new quagmire of violence and instability. Critics in Tehran claim we should have given far less latitude on the nuclear activities and must demand the lifting of all sanctions on the day the deal is signed, with fewer checks and balances on Iran’s commitments.

Some have voiced strong opposition to diplomacy in its entirety saying the West would never stick to its side of the bargain. But the stakes in the negotiations were high to the extent that without adequate assurances to the six world powers a deal would simply not be possible.

The accord, though not perfect on all counts, is the best possible way forward, both for Iran and the international community, and is certainly better than the alternatives proposed by the opposition. It sets a precedent for diplomacy, to say the least.

Earlier during the talks, some viewed the negotiations as accepting or rejecting western proposals. Few thought, one country could wrestle with the six major players, each with its own interest and concerns over every political and technical aspect of Iran’s nuclear program. Few thought a fair deal is possible. But that is exactly what the Iranian negotiators achieved. In reaching the agreement Zarif proved himself a diplomat of the high caliber, and earned the respect of his counterparts.

It would not be an overstatement to say that Zarif —for service to his nation—has taken a place among the great in Iran’s history like the former prime minister Amir Kabir. Though he may fail to top his current achievement, he still has many deals to cut for Iran’s national interest. After all Iran has a lot to offer the world.