Winners still unclear after historic Iran deal of 2013
Interview with political scientist Majid Rafizadeh on what the deal with Tehran means
The interim deal struck between Tehran and Western powers may have been one of the political highlights of 2013 – but the true impact of the agreement is still unclear, says one leading analyst.
Majid Rafizadeh, an Iranian-American political scientist and scholar, said the outlines and details of the nuclear deal, reached in late November, fail to show who the real winner is.
In an interview with Al Arabiya News, Rafizadeh spoke about the deal and how it is perceived in Iran and globally.
Q: What do you think of the nuclear deal?
There has been a lot of hope and optimism in the media, but we still have to look at the core issue. The agreement does not address fundamental concerns about Iran’s nuclear program. It basically allows Iran to keep its nuclear infrastructure, and enrich uranium but at a lower percentage. It does not ask Iran to reduce its centrifuges. This is not the first time they [have reached] a deal.
Q: Is it possible that the West fell into a trap when it agreed to the deal?
There has been eagerness and pressure from both the West and Iran to reach a deal. The American and British governments were reluctant to seek military alternatives. This was the only option they had, and for that reason they had to make the agreement so general: allow Iran to enrich and keep its infrastructure, and the West would keep economic sanctions.
Q: How have hardliners reacted to the deal?
Hardliners are supporters of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Despite him congratulating Iranian President Hassan Rowhani after the agreement was reached, we have to remember that the same thing happened in 2003.
Back then, the supreme leader congratulated the deal, but hardliners later began criticizing it. This led to Khamenei withdrawing his support for the agrement. For now, hardliners will try to show that Rowhani’s moderate government is not scoring any points, and their opinions could again influence Khamenei.
Q: How are the Iranian people reacting to the deal?
If we look at polls, even if we cannot really measure their credibility, the silent middle class, made up mostly of the youth, are very happy about the deal and Rowhani’s vision. They are really optimistic that he is not only going to resolve the nuclear issue, but will improve diplomatic ties with the United States. The majority of Iranians want a relationship with the United States, but many would follow Khamenei if he withdrew his support for the deal.
Q: If we look at the Syrian regime, which is an ally of Iran, do you see any hope for the Geneva II peace conference, scheduled to take place in January?
The Syrian opposition is still struggling to form a cohesive, strong coalition to represent it in the meeting to face President Bashar al-Assad’s government. The opposition thinks Assad should be coming to Geneva II to hand over power, but he will not do that, according to statements made by Syrian government officials.
The West is more comfortable after the nuclear deal to invite Iran to the Geneva talks. However, that does not necessarily mean that it will change Tehran’s position of supporting the Syrian regime. They will negotiate, but Iran will maintain its position that Assad is legitimate and should remain in power, and that the Syrian people should decide their fate.
Q: As the United States is offering to dismantle Syria’s chemical arsenal at sea, does this mean it is withdrawing the option of military intervention?
U.S. President Barack Obama from the beginning has not been eager to interfere in Syria, especially after the experience of Iraq. The United States has shifted the discourse, from people being killed in Syria, to chemical weapons. We know that 98% of those killed have died from conventional weapons, not chemical. I do not think the United States will want to lead a strike on Syria to try to end the civil war.
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