A New Era in the Middle East

If the Iran nuclear deal is ratified and implemented, it will be a success of historical proportions and will mark the beginning of a new era for both Iran and the West.

“[The] #IranDeal, [is a] victory of diplomacy and mutual respect over [an] outdated paradigm of exclusion and coercion. And this will be [a] good beginning.” That was the tweet sent out to the world somewhat prematurely by President Hassan Rouhani on Monday. Shortly thereafter, the message was deleted and reposted, with an “if” added to the original.

This little incident documents the meaning of the agreement between Iran and its negotiating partners, the USA, Russia, China, France, United Kingdom and Germany. It represents a paradigm shift. After more than 12 years of hard bargaining, mutual accusations and threats, an internationally binding treaty will allow Iran to keep its nuclear facilities for the purpose of generating energy, while simultaneously requiring Iran to submit itself to strict controls and monitoring by the International Atomic Energy Agency. This is to ensure that Iran cannot engage in a clandestine weapons development program. In return, the draconian economic sanctions on Iran will be gradually lifted.

So, if this agreement is ratified and implemented in the future, it will be, in fact, a diplomatic victory as well as the start of a new era in Western – and above all U.S. – relations with Iran. But it will also be a victory for the president of Iran. Unlike his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, he has worked toward genuine compromise and actually delivered what he had promised his countrymen slightly less than two years ago: that his policy would be “to engage in constructive interaction with the world.”

And the agreement is likewise a success for Barack Obama, who, at his inauguration seven years earlier, had said “we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.” He kept that promise, but at the same time, he increased sanctions on Iran to show that he had no intention of relying solely on Iran’s promises.

And finally, the nuclear deal shows that important agreements to improve international conflicts are reachable only through the concerted efforts of Russia, China, and – yes – the European Union, with the leadership of Germany. Their participation in the negotiations not only defused the confrontation between the United States and Iran, but also made it clear to the Tehran regime that global political players would not tolerate nuclear weapons proliferation.

The Danger of Nuclear Weapons Proliferation Was Reduced

The agreement heralds a completely new geostrategic era in the region, in which the West considers Saudi Arabia to be a less important military ally and trading partner. At the same time, the Saudi regime is no longer pressured to develop its own nuclear weapons program. The danger of a nuclear arms race in the Middle East is thereby lessened or perhaps even eliminated altogether.

The West now has a realistic hope that Iran will help in regional conflicts, acting as a negotiating partner or at least serving as a calming influence. If Tehran would, for example, influence Syria’s Bashar al-Assad to seek a ceasefire between his troops and Syrian rebel forces, that would in turn become the basis for a successful war against the Islamic State’s terrorist militias.

Simultaneously, the United States and Europe must strengthen the Iranian moderates because it’s not as if only Rouhani’s moderates would benefit from the nuclear agreement. If the expected economic upturn comes about, the Revolutionary Guard would also benefit, because they are one of the largest economic factors in Iran. Whether Iran’s actual leader – revolutionary leader Ali Khamenei – would try to exploit the success on behalf of his aggressive nationalistic foreign policies remains unanswered at present. It could cause problems for the West, should he continue his present course of détente with the Iranian regime.

And that brings us to Israel. Its ultraconservative government still refuses to acknowledge that the nuclear deal is in Israel’s best interest, in that it makes the nation considerably more secure. If Israel’s leadership finally accepts that and begins to play an active role in Middle Eastern conflict resolution, a new era in the Middle East can truly be said to have dawned.

If . . .

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