The world heaved a sigh of relief as the thorny issue of Iran’s Nuclear Program that was dragging on for years was finally settled amicably between Iran and the major powers – the U.S., Britain, Russia, France, China and Germany (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany).
This is a paradigm shift in Iran-West relations and Israel might be feeling sidelined. Leader of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, approved the nuclear deal and thanked the Iranian negotiating team. He hailed it as a basis for future prudent measures. President Hassan Rouhani expressed hope that the final comprehensive agreement will lead to the lifting of all international and unilateral sanctions against Iran. According to the President, Iran would “never” seek atomic weapons but the deal recognizes Tehran’s “rights” to maintain an atomic program.
President Obama welcomed the agreement in these words: “Today, that diplomacy opened up a new path toward a world that is more secure — a future in which we can verify that Iran’s nuclear program is peaceful and that it cannot build a nuclear weapon. While today’s announcement is just a first step, it achieves a great deal. For the first time in nearly a decade, we have halted the progress of the Iranian nuclear program, and key parts of the program will be rolled back.”
European Union foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, who had been coordinating diplomatic contacts with Iran on behalf of the major powers, said the agreement created time and space for follow-up talks on a comprehensive solution to the dispute. UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon also warmly welcomed the interim agreement and urged the governments concerned “to do everything possible to build on this encouraging start”.
Israel is the sole exception, and the only country which has denounced it as a “historic mistake”, declaring that it would not be bound by it. “This is a bad deal. It grants Iran exactly what it wanted – both a significant easing in sanctions and preservation of the most significant parts of its nuclear programme,” an official in prime minister Benjamin Netanhayu’s office said.
The Arab World is apprehensive and confused. No country has denounced or raised objections but there is a lurking fear that flourishing relations between West and Iran would isolate the Arab World headed by Saudi Arabia. The seemingly strong religio-political systems of Egypt, the liberal Islamic regimes of Tunisia and Libya have been torn at the seams and the ‘Arab Spring’ is turning into a virtual ‘Arab Autumn.’ The role of Saudi Arabia in Oil Politics is no longer that prominent as world is turning away its dependency on other resources and the US is discovering new Energy Resources in its own soil and South America.
The new deal would limit but not scrap Iranian uranium enrichment. Iran would not raise its enrichment to develop a bomb but take it to the level that would suffice its energy needs. Everyone seems to be a part of winning pie. However, some Gulf Arab states, under the umbrella of Saudi Arabia see Tehran as a regional troublemaker. That richer and stronger Iran, after the eventual lifting of sanctions that have shackled its economy could encourage the Shia populations in Arab countries against their rulers is the main fear. This could bring Israel closer to Gulf Royals as they will try to piece together a diplomatic and security strategy to reduce their vulnerability to a resurgent Iran.
According to a senior Arab official: “The atomic arsenal is not their only arsenal — it is the mischief arsenal they have that worries us.”
What these Arab countries are failing to realize is that the commercial imperatives that have driven decades of the US engagement with them are similar to those driving the US towards Iran. Iran has a big population and it is also a lucrative market. Iranians need a lot of infrastructure for rebuilding that could generate billions of dollars for the US and the UK oil companies.
Al-Qaida is another Arab Frankenstein that has been troubling the civilized world to its roots and Arab hands are not coming out clean in its support or operations. Some Arabs feel that “Iran is sitting at the high table. We are left with the leftovers.”