A nuclear agreement between Iran and the P5+1 is reached. If you know an Iranian, congratulate them today. Because this is a historic day, for us, as Iranians, as democracy activists. Today I’m happy.
And Iranians are happy too. They have poured into streets to celebrate. You can see the pictures here.
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.
Back in April, when the “framework” was reached, I wrote a piece and enumerated ways this agreement is important. Some of what I wrote back then bears repeating:
This is a victory for the Iranian people and by the Iranian people. I’m glad because we made this happen. We went to the streets and protested. We forced them to let Rouhani be elected. We forced them to accept to deal with the west. We endured all the hardships. We went through fire and ice and it is our victory. I’m reading the deal for like the tenth time. All economic sanctions will be lifted. And with Rouhani’s powerful economic team – who have already reversed the economic disasters – soon Ahmadinejad years will be no more than a nightmare. Now my students will not have to see the bleak and dark years I have seen. Their life will not be defined by trauma and fear. I’m so glad to be alive and witness history. Rouhani acknowledged that in his speech addressing the nation.
This is a victory for Rouhani and the reformists. Khamenei did not block the deal while he could have, but I sincerely think he’s unhappy and he wouldn’t have if it wasn’t the pressure from the Iranian people. People went into the streets to clebrate the deal. Khamenei had given up already And if anyone but Rouhani was president this would have been very difficult or impossible. Simplistic readings of Iranian policy might not understand this but this truly is Rouhani’s achievement mainly.
This is the first step for Rouhani. In a speech addressed to Iranians after the deal, he said that this victory was a vindication of his pragmatic politics, that if we have cold relations with a country we must make it warmer, and if we are enemies with a country we must become friends. While conservatives were all emphatic “this is a nuclear deal and absolutely nothing else”. But Rouhani will push to make rational diplomacy dominant. And he might succeed. This is going to affect the upcoming parliamentary election much to Rouhani’s favor. Also Rouhani will be reelected with like a trillion percent of the votes.
This might have very positive effects on human rights issues too. Listen, it’s as simple as this. A stronger Rouhani + more hopeful and energized people = more chances of actual reform through public activism and lobbying from Rouhani.
These points used to be true and are still true about this deal. I only have one thing to add.
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.
Of course, there are detractors who say this deal does not necessarily mean things will be better for Iran. There is no hard evidence that this would make the political space more open.
Back in 2013, we had less reasons to hope. What we faced was an extremely repressive political climate, an illegitimate president, a defeated uprising, the shadow of war, crippling sanctions, an economy on the verge of complete collapse, and an entirely conservative regime. But we did not lose hope and we campaigned and voted for Rouhani, and now our president is democratically elected, the regime is again divided and reformists and pragmatists have a voice, the shadow of war is lifted, the sanctions are about to go, and the economy has slightly improved. We hoped then, we will hope now, and our hope created real change, and it will.
Next stop is the parliamentary elections. Conservatives need to be kicked out and a reformist or at least a pragmatist Parliament. And although there will be obstacles to overcome, a vast majority of Iranians know that this happy day is not the day that we stop hoping.
We will hope. And we will fight.
Image credit: U.S. Department of State, via Flickr, image is public domain