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Author: Aimen Taki

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Iran and 5+1 Talks in Geneva on 24 November 2013

Early morning on Sunday the 24th of November, the Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Zarif agreed a deal in principle with the 5+1 foreign ministers that would curb the nuclear activity of Iran in exchange for the loosening of the economic sanctions imposed on Iran. Every country involved in this deal is claiming a victory for diplomacy and world peace. Let’s consider some of the repercussions ..

Impact on the Iranian Economy

As a result of the economic sanctions, the Iranian economy has been faltering. Their inability to freely trade with other countries has hit the very core of the Iranian economy. With youth unemployment broadcast to be as high as 40% (source: Aljazeera) and its currency losing over 60% of its value against the US dollar (between January 2010 and November 2013) the economic struggles were a deep concern for the people and certainly for the government, especially the new Rouhani government. Hence the new president has made the nuclear issue a core part of his campaign in his early days in office. It is therefore not a surprise that a deal regarding the Iranian nuclear situation was struck only 3 months after the inauguration of Iranian president Rouhani. The sanctions are expected to be loosened in the coming months and that should see the economic situation improve.

The Syrian Situation

Although the Iranian government  may not fully declare the extent of its involvement in Syria, recent footage (the authenticity of which could not be verified) by the rebels claims to show an Iranian group of high ranking Revolutionary Guard members training and assisting pro-Assad groups in their fight against the rebels. Therefore you find that the Syrian situation is very much intertwined with Iran and its nuclear situation.. Should the nuclear deal be implemented, Iran’s involvement in Syria will almost certainly have to be altered. If the Iranian president wanted to further improve his relations with the west, then ceasing all military action (formal or informal) in Syria might be viewed as a good step forward. However, that can also be viewed as a step in the wrong direction as removing the support to pro-Assad groups would end up aiding the rebel groups many of whom are branches of Al-Qaeda whom in turn has waged a war against Shia Muslims (89% of Iranians are Shia Muslims according to estimates). Therefore it is as if Iran is aiding in the war to destruct Iran! If, however, Iran were to continue its military presence in Syria, it might be able to increase its missions and actions in Syria as their economic condition improves. Link to footage

Is This MAD?

MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) was an idea that existed during the tensest years of the cold war. It was an unofficial peace treaty between the USSR and the USA. Both countries knew that the other had a large enough nuclear arsenal to destroy them, therefore it stopped them attacking each other. Currently, in the middle east, only Israel possess nuclear weapons. Iran, had the ability to develop nuclear weapons and whether they did actually develop them or not is unclear. It seems a situation similar to MAD was developing between Iran and Israel. Unfortunately, if this deal is signed Iran would definitely not be able to develop nuclear weapons which would not allow a MAD situation to occur. This would give Israel superiority over Iran which would further de-stabalise the already tense middle east and could send the whole region over the top.

Life on the street

On the streets of Tehran the realities of living under economic sanctions has hit the people hard. The Iranian people no longer have the opportunity to enjoy some basic luxuries such as international holidays since many countries consider Iran a threat and do not grant its citizens tourist visas. International products have also become an expensive and rare sight on Iranians streets. You find that many people will view this deal as a positive step on the road to recovery from ten very hard years.

Saudi Arabia…What’s In It for Them?

The one country that gains the most from this deal is arguably Saudi Arabia. Their regional rival for power and wealth is no longer able to implement an important part of its agenda, develop nuclear weapons. Iran is hence weakened. What more would the Saudis want?

Conclusion

Many people, in Iran, will claim this deal is a huge victory for Iran since its right to enrich Uranium ‘has been recognised’ according to President Rouhani. However, the fact of the matter is that Iran will no longer be able to develop nuclear weapons, which could mean it has one less card to play with when addressing Israel and other regional enemies/threats. They will simply not be taken as seriously, they will still be a serious regional power nonetheless. That is possibly the biggest loss for Iran in this deal. However this deal promised to eventually lift the economic sanctions and improve the life of the average Iranian citizen and should provide countless opportunities for their youth. Whether this deal is the first of many steps in the right direction, or this whole new direction is a complete and utter mistake will have to be judged in a couple of years, I however tend to think it will be the latter, unfortunately, since 1979 Iran has prided itself in not bowing to international powers, especially western ones. Also for Iran to suddenly go from an ideology that has been developing for over 30 years to a 3 month old idea could be a jump too far for the Iranian establishment. It’ll take more than 3 months and one president to bring into effect all the changes that are required in Iranian thought and the Iranian society for a deal of this magnitude to be fully accepted and for that reason I cannot see this deal being a success.

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