Iran N-deal, victory for diplomacy

The nuclear agreement reached at Vienna between Iran and the P-5+1 grouping of the UN Security Council’s permanent members and Germany is a historic achievement. It serves as a reminder that negotiations are more successful than military strikes in resolving conflict. Even a few years ago, a compromise seemed impossible; so large was the gap in the positions of the two sides.

However, perseverance and patience that parties to the negotiations displayed over the last two years paid off. In exchange for restrictions on its nuclear activities – among other things, Iran has agreed to reduce its centrifuges by two-thirds, halt enrichment at key facilities, cap uranium enrichment at 3.67 per cent and monitoring of its nuclear facilities by the International Atomic Energy Association – Tehran would get relief from economic sanctions. Importantly, Iran will be able to pursue a nuclear programme for peaceful purposes. Reaching agreement at Vienna is, however, not the end of the story. For one, the deal struck at Vienna needs to be ratified by the US Congress, where Republicans and hardline Democrats are preparing to vote against it. President Barack Obama must veto any attempt to derail this landmark agreement. There are hawks in Iran too who are opposed to any deal with the US. Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, will need to send out a strong signal of full support to the agreement to discourage any attempts at sabotaging it.  

The nuclear agreement paves the way for greater US-Iran cooperation on global issues. They could work together on dealing with the Islamic State, for instance. While the agreement pulls the US and Iran back from the brink of war, in West Asia, an arms race looms. Israel, Saudi Arabia and other anti-Iran Gulf states have rejected the agreement as flawed and not doing enough to prevent Iran from acquiring weapons. These countries can be expected to indulge in frenzied shopping for conventional, even nuclear arsenal. This has implications beyond the region. Possible Saudi cooperation with Pakistan on nuclear weapons will be of concern to India.

With the agreement normalising Iran’s relations with the rest of the world, investment is likely to flow into its cash-strapped oil industry. The ending of sanctions on Iran will provide India with much-needed clarity on its relations with Tehran. Over the past decade, India’s outreach to Iran was confused as Delhi feared that its cooperation with Tehran would draw Washington’s ire. India-Iran projects such as Chabahar port development that languished due to Delhi’s dithering will receive a shot in the arm now.

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