A Deal with Iran and a Chance for Freedom

For Iran’s President Rouhani, the lifting of sanctions against his nation is a great success. Whether he uses that chance to liberalize Iran remains to be seen. With that, Iran is once more on the path to regional supremacy, a role for which the nation is predestined because of its geographical location, its population and its economic and cultural potential.

The nuclear agreement with Iran simultaneously ends the 35-year squabble between Iran and the United States. After much tough negotiating in Lausanne, the nuclear axe has been buried thanks to the better judgment of both former enemy nations.

The United States realized they could not bring about regime change in Iran and would have to be content with a non-nuclear Tehran. Since Rouhani became president two years ago, the Iranians have had only one thought in mind — escaping their decades of isolation and a new start in cooperation with the West to end the economic blockade by lifting the sanctions.

The West could have gotten this success much sooner. Tehran made concessions that went beyond all expectations and placed its nuclear program under international control for a quarter of a century. But Iran had already shut down its military nuclear program 12 years earlier in 2003 after the Americans managed to get the threat of Saddam Hussein off Iran’s back. All Western intelligence agencies knew this and were just pretending to fear Iran.

At the round of negotiations between Europe and reform President Mohammed Khatami, Tehran was prepared to reduce its program to 20 uranium enrichment centrifuges. The Europeans were ecstatic but the Americans insisted on holding out for a zero-sum solution. The current agreement just reached allows Iran to have 6,000 centrifuges. Admittedly they will be under strict observation by the International Atomic Energy Agency. The West could have gotten a better deal much earlier.

We Will See If Rouhani Allows a Liberalization of Iran

For Rouhani and his foreign minister Zarif, the agreement is a shining success. It was possible only because spiritual leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei got tough with the hardliners. He also understood that the economic and social burdens had to be gotten rid of somehow. Banners trumpeting the once-popular “death to America” slogan were suddenly conspicuously absent toward the conclusion of the negotiations.

Before his election, Rouhani promised more freedoms and the restoration of the rule of law. That was more than he could deliver as ex-President Rafsanjani predicted days before the election. Rouhani deliberately avoided a two-front war with the Western negotiators and his domestic opposition. Whether he will use his victory to actually liberalize Iran’s policies remains an open question.

Iran Is Destined for Supremacy in the Region

The success is being celebrated on the streets of Tehran as if Iran had won the World Cup. Most Iranians were aware of what was at stake and that only the radicals were profiting from the ongoing economic crisis. The segment of the Revolutionary Guard that largely controlled the economy had mistaken profits for patriotism.

The Saudi tactic of interference in Yemen with its bomber offensive against an exaggerated Iranian action in support of the Shiite Houthi rebels raised about as much interest in Lausanne as the warnings and protests coming out of Israel. One thing is certain in the wake of recognizing Iran as a civilian nuclear power: The Islamic Republic, because of its large number of inhabitants, its geographic location and its cultural potential, is destined for regional preeminence.

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