Iran’s nuclear deal will change the region, but…
The door behind which Iran was imprisoned by the world, is about to open
The nuclear deal is now a reality and one that should be dealt with as a fait accompli. Even before getting into the details of the nuclear deal between Iran and the United States, we should be aware that significant historical change is looming on the horizon. The question remains: which direction will it take Iran and take the Arab world to?
Understanding and analyzing this deal will take me time and a few articles, because it tackles multiple angles and they are difficult to summarize. This includes the deal’s consequences on Iran itself and countries in the region, such as Bahrain, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Yemen, and its stability with regional powers like Saudi Arabia and Egypt. This deal might also ignite a larger armament race, most probably nuclear. We should measure its impact on the Arab relations with the West and whether it will further fuel the current sectarian conflicts.
We know we are facing dramatic change; the door behind which Iran was imprisoned by the world, is about to open. However, we cannot be certain which direction the free Iran will now take, especially that we had complained about this when Iran was still controlled.
Indeed, it’s wrong to build policies on assumptions and analyze them as proven facts. The agreement may be a victory for the Iranian regime over its rivals inside and outside Iran, but it might turn out to be a submissive deal. If halting Iran's nuclear project, for the moment, results in just the lifting of nuclear-related sanctions and setting Iran free to become a major regional power, we will be then embarking on a more serious crisis and an era stained with more blood.
The door behind which Iran was imprisoned by the world, is about to openAbdulrahman al-Rashed
Nevertheless, if halting Iran's nuclear project results in the freezing of Iran's militarized nuclear activities, controlled by the lifting of Western sanctions, and an end to political antagonism against Iran, then we would be witnessing positive progress. It would mean that Iran has finally surrendered and will become, like any other country in the region such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia, a peaceful state that defends its borders.
The difference between the two outcomes is huge. The majority of observers I have talked to tend to expect the first scenario, which means that Iran has accepted to abandon its military nuclear project in exchange for the lifting of restrictions on its armament and conventional military activity: this is the part that worries the Arab countries. As for Israel, it is afraid of the nuclear side. It believes that this deal would stop Iran from building a nuclear bomb, but it does not stop it from remaining “qualified” to be armed on the nuclear front in the future. This deal allows Iran to keep its nuclear production chain. It will still have the knowledge and tools but it will be under supervision so as not to produce a nuclear weapon. Israel wants to prevent Iran and not just censor its actions.
The regime’s appetite
Iran’s nuclear submission to the West would unleash its confined desires. In order to understand that idea, I will compare the Obama administration’s policy toward the Syrian regime's crimes. It was against gas and chemical weapons use, but did not pay the same attention to around a quarter of a million people killed by explosive barrels, guns and tanks. Now, Iran is outside its prison and will be able to buy advanced weapons, build advanced oil capacities, trade in dollars, and at a later stage, it may be partly or fully allied to the West, similar to its cooperation with the West in Iraq and Afghanistan.
This dramatic change could open up the appetite of the Iranian regime, which does not need a nuclear bomb to control large key areas. The regime suffers from a “major regional country” complex and might have plans for further adventures.
This deal might enhance its influence on the external level but won’t necessarily serve the regime inside Iran. Ayatollah’s regime has weakened with time, where the religious flame has satiated and security – represented by the Revolutionary Guards – has been improved at the expense of the clerics. The deal requires the openness of the regime, however Iran is not ready for it yet and could face what happened to the Soviet Union after the deals to reduce its nuclear arsenal and be cooperative with the West: it rapidly collapsed. The other possibility is that the deal serves a regime that has been weakened by 30 years of isolation and is now politically drained; the deal would then give the Iranian regime the kiss of life. But most probably the agreement will slowly change Iran, similarly to what happened in China, where the communist structure governed the country without communism.
This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on April 4, 2015.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.
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