After years of delicate negotiations, President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry, along with several other countries, have finalized an agreement that will ensure that Iran’s nuclear program remains for peaceful, domestic energy production only and makes it virtually impossible for them to turn it into a weapons program. That is done in exchange for a lifting of the international sanctions against that country.
Strictly as a factual matter, it’s quite a remarkable agreement. The inspection and verification regime it sets up is extraordinarily strong, with the International Atomic Energy Agency having 24/7 access not only to Iran’s nuclear facilities but to their uranium mines, processing facilities and every other step along the chain that could possibly lead to enriching uranium for weapons purposes. It limits their enrichment to less than 4%, far below the point where it would even be hypothetically possible to build a bomb.
But all the fighting over the agreement is really about domestic political battles, both in this country and in Iran. Ironically, the right wing hardliners in both countries agree completely that it’s a terrible, horrible deal — in this country because it will allegedly allow them to continue to build nuclear weapons (it won’t) and in Iran because it will not allow that. The right wings in both countries have no interest in peaceful negotiations and diplomatic resolutions, they’re too busy beating the war drums.
Kaveh Mousavi, who lives in Iran, has written at some length about how important this agreement is for reformists in Iran. The Iranian people are overjoyed at this because it means the sanctions will be lifted, which will increase their standard of living dramatically. It also means that the position of reformers like President Rouhani is strengthened. He writes:
What this means for the international community is that Iran’s way towards nuclear weapons is effectively blocked. It means much more for Iranian people. It means that sanctions which have crippled Iranian economy will be removed, it means the shadow of war is lifted, it means that there is potential for reformists to gain even more power…
The nuclear talks began 13 years ago with Hassan Rouhani as the chief negotiator and ended today with him as the President.
Javad Zarif was his deputy then and his Foreign Minister now. He always represented the pragmatist wing of the regime, advocating diplomacy and reconciliation with the world. He was the one who decided to suspend Iran’s nuclear program and drafted a deal with the troika of European countries (UK, France, and Germany). This deal was vetoed by the United States, under the Bush administration. Ironically, that deal was much less to Iran’s favor and Iran’s nuclear program would have been much smaller if it were upheld.
It is no surprise that he is mainly associated with the same issue, his nickname being the Diplomat Sheikh. But I know that today Rouhani’s legacy has not been shaped – today is the beginning of his legacy.
Rouhani will be considered a very powerful and influential man from this day, he will be extremely popular. He will be a political force comparable to the most powerful people in Iranian history. He won’t need the support of the former reformist president Mohammad Khatami or Hashemi Rafsanjani from now on. He might transcend both figures.
This is the beginning of a new era for Iran.
The hardliners in Iran will be increasingly marginalized, which cannot possibly be anything but a very good thing. The hardliners in this country, those who have practically salivated for the possibility of launching yet another war in the Middle East, will continue to throw a fit, but their position is simply absurd. What was the point of putting sanctions on Iran in the first place? To force them to end their nuclear weapons program. So what happens when we reach an agreement with very strong verification in it does exactly that? Now they want even more sanctions.
The fact is that for the American right wing, like the Iranian right wing, this was never actually about fixing the problem. It’s all about political posturing. It’s all about fear-mongering and saber-rattling, the only foreign policy language they speak. It didn’t matter what the agreement said, they were going to oppose it. They still live in their John Wayne fantasy world where loud talk and macho posturing is not a means to an end but the end in and of itself.
But the world today is a safer place. Iran is on the path to being less dangerous to its neighbors and less oppressive toward its own people. The chances of a war with Iran that would inevitably lead to a region-wide, perhaps even global, conflagration has been significantly decreased. Reasonable people will cheer this on; those who want the nation on a perpetual war footing will throw a tantrum about it.