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Post-sanctions Iran will be force for stability

  • 24 July 2015

Iran’s agreement with five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany, dubbed P5+1 in Vienna over its nuclear program has been widely seen a major diplomatic breakthrough.

The deal provides for strict limits on Iran, backed by international inspections and the threat of sanctions ‘snap-back’. In return, it provides for the continued, albeit seriously curtailed, Iranian nuclear program and the lifting of sanctions that have crippled Iranian economy.

This deal still needs final ratification by the US Congress and the Iranian parliament (Majlis). But the UN Security Council has already endorsed it and generated a lot of momentum behind its ratification. Anticipating the confirmation of the deal by the Iranian Majlis, Russia and China have both indicated that they will drop their sanctions.

This is significant achievement for President Hassan Rouhani, who came to office two year ago with the promise of resolving the nuclear deadlock and freeing Iran’s economy from the clasp of international sanctions.

The deal is of course contested. Rouhani faces a hostile Majlis, filled with conservative members. But he has managed to keep his critics at bay through carefully manoeuvring hurdles in the political system. After all, President Rouahni is very much an insider and well-versed in the way the Islamic regime operates.

As the former head of the national security council, he is attuned to the importance of having the support of the Supreme Leader. Rouhani managed to bring along Ali Khamenei throughout the marathon negotiations. Over the course of the nuclear talks, Khamenei continued to support the initiative and at one point reprimanded Rouhani’s critics by saying heroism could also be manifested in negotiations and compromise. This support has been critical to the success of negotiations.

Another point, central to selling the deal to the more conservative members of the regime, is the notion of nuclear energy as a matter of national pride. The government of President Ahmadinejad, much more actively than any previous government in Iran, advocated Iran’s right to have access to nuclear energy and elevated the issue to a matter of national pride, presenting international concerns about a clandestine nuclear weapons program as a smokescreen to deprive Iran of nuclear energy.

This approach closed avenues of talks and led to severe international sanctions. In contrast, the President Rouhani and his Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif have presented the Vienna deal as an international admission of Iran’s right to generate nuclear energy. They have turned the obstacle