Monday, 06 June, 2016

Iran Nuclear Deal is a Triumph of Diplomacy


Iran nuclear deal is a triumph of diplomacy

On the surface, the historic nuclear deal between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the world powers is primarily a non-proliferation agreement.

Suspicious of Iran’s intentions, the Obama administration and its European partners have framed the agreement as an arms-control mechanism aimed at keeping Tehran’s nuclear programme within strictly civilian parameters.

 Thanks to the proactive diplomatic efforts of  Tehran and Washington , a growing number of  high-profile Democrats  in the US Congress as well as Gulf Arab countries,  particularly Qatar, have openly expressed their support for the nuclear deal. Aljazeera’s Richard Javad Heydarian writes.

It well looks like the Obama administration has enough legislative support to overcome Republican and Israeli opposition.

From the Western perspective, the nuclear deal represents the most important security agreement since the signing of the Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missiles (INF) Treaty between Washington and Moscow during the twilight years of the Cold War.

Meanwhile, Iran has successfully  managed to  legitimise its nuclear enrichment programme, protect its rights as a member of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, and ostensibly end its pariah status in favour of greater integration and interaction with the international community.

A closer look, however, reveals how two years of non-stop negotiations - anchored by patient and determined diplomatic manoeuvres of both Tehran and Washington - has triggered a seismic shift in the global geopolitical landscape.

Almost two centuries ago, Vienna served as a crucial venue for the establishment of a  new order in Europe, ending years of devastating wars during the Napoleonic age in favour of a carefully constructed balance of power system.

Once again, the beautiful European capital has facilitated the carving out of a new international order.

One of the most important implications of the comprehensive nuclear agreement between Tehran and the great powers is the renewed faith in the power of diplomacy.

For more than a decade, the prospect of a devastating confrontation between the US and Iran extended a dark shadow across an already unstable region.

Insisting on keeping “all options on the table”, several American administrations - not to mention Israel, which has repeatedly vowed to preserve its rights to defend its interests - have threatened military intervention in order to derail Iran’s burgeoning nuclear programme.

But after years of acrimonious statements and  fruitless negotiation, the Obama administration was finally able to find a reliable counterpart in Iran.

President Hassan Rouhani pulled off a landslide victory during the 2013 elections by promising not only to end the debilitating sanctions against Iran, which is crucial to ending the country’s economic conundrum, but also a new chapter in Iran’s relations with the Western world.

Together with Javad Zarif, his articulate and astute foreign minister, Rouhani was able to garner support from the Iranian establishment in favour of opening up new communication channels with the West.

Iran nuclear deal opens diplomatic channels for Syria

The nuclear deal with Iran was widely expected to affect other Middle East issues, and that may already be happening with Syria: A series of recent diplomatic maneuvers suggest a growing willingness to at least engage with the Iranian-backed government of Bashar Al Assad on ways to end the country’s civil war.

The embattled leader seems no more inclined to step aside now than he did four years ago, and any agreement still looks to be far off - but the search seems to be on for an elegant solution that might, for example, allow him a transitional role. In part, it is also driven by the new leadership team in Saudi Arabia, which emerged with the accession to the throne of King Salman in January, Gulf News writes in an article

Another factor is the emergence and spread of the violent and fanatical Daesh terrorist group as the most potent opposition to Al Assad, far more so than the relatively moderate rebels who won a measure of world support after the conflict began four years ago. The civil war has killed at least 250,000, displaced half the population, flooded brittle neighboring countries with refugees and has left jihadis occupying not only much of Syria but also perhaps a third of Iraq.

The Persian Gulf States and Iran’s Diplomacy of “Openness”

There have been interesting developments this week in US-Russian relations with the Persian Gulf states, Egypt, and Turkey - and also interesting developments in the political discourse of both Iran and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).

The strategic dialogue between the United States and Egypt resumed earlier this week, for the first time since 2009, tackling the future of US-Egyptian relations. The relations had become tense following the Muslim Brotherhood rise to power in Cairo. The talks also tackled Egypt’s regional role in Libya, Yemen, and Syria, Huffingtonpost’s Raghida Dergham writes.

The declaration by the GCC as spoken by Qatar’s Foreign Minister Khalid Al-Attiyah welcoming the deal with Iran is a notable development that helps Obama’s administration, which needs such stances on the eve of the deliberations over the deal in Congress.

This is also happening in conjunction with an agreement to resume strategic dialogue between the United States and the GCC, which started in Camp David two months earlier. The next session of the dialogue will take place in New York next month.

The US-Russian partnership represented by Secretary of State John Kerry and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov brought a new initiative to the GCC for political and diplomatic efforts in the Arab region, launched in the wake of the nuclear deal with Tehran. The details of the American and Russian attitudes on regional issues did not yet amount to a radical shift, whether vis-à-vis Syria or vis-à-vis the Iranian role there. In truth, the tripartite meeting bringing together Kerry, Lavrov, and Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir reflected Washington and Moscow’s desire to reassure Riyadh that the sprint towards Tehran does not mean a split with Riyadh or the reduction of the Arab regional weight in favor of Iran.

The Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif is also trying to reassure the Persian Gulf states through his “broad smile” diplomacy. Zarif wrote an article in Al-Safir, titled “Neighbors before the house”, in which he called for looking for ways to help all regional countries to uproot the causes of tension and the absence of trust. The Qatari foreign minister responded by calling for a serious and constructive dialogue with “our Iranian neighbors”, including discussing what he said was Iranian interference in the internal affairs of the Gulf countries and Tehran’s continued support for President Bashar al-Assad.

There is a flurry of diplomatic and political activities coinciding with a campaign to market the Iranian nuclear deal. There are also economic and intelligence activities involving the United States, Russia, and Europe in the direction of Iran and the GCC, part of which to market arms and part of it to secure a place in the reconstruction of the countries ravaged by this decade’s mysterious and odd wars.


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