Originally Published 2013-11-26 09:40:59 Published on Nov 26, 2013
Being a pragmatist, Iranian President Rouhani simply accepted the reality and made a deal, that ensured Iran's respect and dignity and gave relief to his people. His next 100 days will be equally crucial and that may bring about tectonic changes in the region.
Iran's nuclear deal: Costs and benefits
" At long last, after three rounds of Geneva talks, the Iranian leadership has clinched a deal with the West on 24th November, claiming that it had come just a few hours before the new regime of President Rouhani completed 100 days in office. So Rouhani has pulled off a diplomatic triumph that his predecessor either could not or would not. As Rouhani wrote in his letter to the Supreme Leader, he has forced the West to see the folly of its policy of sanctions and that the path of negotiations in which Iran is treated with respect and dignity has won the day.

US President Barack Obama too had his own narrative to the critics in the Republican Party, the Jewish and the Saudi lobbies in Washington. He said that he had pulled Iran away from the brink of nuclear weaponisation and has forced it to see the folly in nuclear proliferation. Both claim victory of sorts and both are right up to a point.

The path of sanctions had run its full course and had failed to achieve the desired objectives: either a change in policy or the regime. But it had crippled the Iranian economy. The regime had been isolated politically and had been bankrupted economically. Obama too can take comfort in believing that he succeeded in preventing nuclear proliferation. But Iran had repeatedly sworn that it would not go for a nuclear weapon as its Supreme Leader had declared it to be 'Haram'. Was it merely shadow boxing? Were they really on a path of confrontation or was Iran merely bluffing the West that it was covertly obtaining a weapon when it was far from it? Did America exploit this bluff and quietly sold billions of dollars of arms to the rich and gullible monarchs in the region, before opening up serious negotiations to end this charade.

What exactly has Iran gained from this 'grandstanding'? Why did it get into this bind in the first place, when and if it had no plans to get a bomb? Let us see its immediate gains from the Geneva talks. It has got the release of $4 billion from its frozen assets that accrued from the sale of oil. Trade in gold, petrochemicals, cars and plane parts have been permitted. Finally and most significantly, its right to enrich uranium, under its treaty obligations to the NPT, has been recognized. This was the crucial part for Iran. President Rouhani proudly declared to his people that Iran had given up nothing; not its right to enrich uranium, had not shut down the Fordow, Natanz or the Arak reactors, had not agreed to shift the 20% enriched uranium out of the country. And on top of all this, the West has eased on sanctions, a policy that was doomed to fail right from the start. It does appear to be a great victory for the Iranians, particularly those that are exposed only to the Iranian media. Iranians will no doubt be confirmed in their belief that they have won a great victory because Netanyahu has termed the deal a 'historic mistake'. Iran has certainly not accepted the Stop (all enrichment), Shut (Fordow) and Shift (the 20% enriched uranium) option given by Israel.

What has the West won from this deal? For the record, Iran has agreed, for a period of six months, to: stop all enrichment activity above 5%, dilute or neutralise the stock of 20% enriched uranium, halt the production of centrifuges, not to fuel or commission its heavy water reactor in Arak and accept more intrusive inspections by the IAEA, including daily visits at some places, including the Fordow plant and open up its Parachin missile testing site.

The six-month period is a period of probation for Iran. Its good behavior will be tested by the IAEA regularly. Gradually, Iran has to come down to enriching uranium only up to 5%. If that is the bottom line, then what has Iran achieved in all these years? Was all this bravado and bluff worth it, considering the hardship that the whole country suffered for the egomaniacal behavior of a handful of leaders? What have they gained in net worth? Recognition as a 'Regional Power'?

As of now, there are no signs of a 'grand bargain' between Iran and the US, though 'The Guardian' talked of a series of secret meetings between the two preceding the Geneva agreement. If the US gets too cosy with Iran, the Arabs have their Al-Qaeda with them. There are no signs that it is getting weaker despite the death of Osama and the deaths of so many of its commanders in Iraq, Yemen, Mali and Libya. It has already targeted the Iranian embassy in Beirut, killing 23 Iranians. And they will extend the ethnic cleansing of Shias, already underway in Iraq and Pakistan, the two contiguous neighbours of Iran. We will have to wait and see whether any more Iranian nuclear scientists will be assassinated after this deal.

Iran may have overplayed its hand, particularly when Ahmedinejad led the country from 2005. He may have started believing his own bluff and lost complete touch with reality. That was apparent in his 12-page letter to former President George Bush, a man hardly known for his cerebral acumen. President Rouhani, the pragmatist that he is, simply accepted the reality and made a deal, a deal that ensured Iran's respect and dignity and gave relief to his people. His next 100 days will be equally crucial and that may bring about tectonic changes in the region.

(The writer is a Distinguished Visiting Fellow at Observer Research Foundation, Delhi)

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Anjali Birla

Anjali Birla

Anjali Birla is an Indian Civil Services Officer(Batch 2020) working in the Ministry of Railways and has done her graduation in Political Science from Delhi ...

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