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Sealing a deal with Iran poses other challenges for Obama

As the U.S. works to build relations with Iran, the Arab world watches on

Camelia Entekhabi-Fard

Published: Updated:

The previously unthinkable rebuilding of relations between the United States and Cuba after half a century of animosity began with the historical meeting of Barack Obama and Cuban President Raual Castro during the Summit of the Americas in Panama City, on Saturday.

But the Iran nuclear talks overshadowed the historical meeting in Panama, when at the press conference journalists asked President Obama about the Iran nuclear framework agreement.

The insecurity and repercussions of this upcoming nuclear deal with Iran have preoccupied the region

President Obama fiercely defended the framework agreement and criticized Republicans who are working hard to break the deal with Iran.

Perhaps both countries will not normalize relations so soon. But the nuclear agreement would help pave the path for the U.S. president to work on this.

While President Obama remained “absolutely positive” that if a final agreement were reached, it would be the best way of preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, in Iran the elaboration of the nuclear framework agreement was very different.

Iran’s supreme leader surprised not only his nation, but also the political leaders who were all left in a jubilant mood last week after the Lausanne framework agreement was reached. But Ayatollah Khamenei’s later response caused confusion among many of them.

Suddenly Ayatollah Khamenei has mocked them all for being congratulatory for nothing, when nothing was technically signed or had happened. He said that according to the negotiators, there was still work to be done, and that also sanctions should be lifted on the first day of the agreement.

Obama’s positive response

It seems as though Ayatollah Khamenei’s remarks have been left some room in case a final deal isn’t reached. Iran’s nationwide celebrations simply show the public’s position on the talks with the United States, despite not having diplomatic ties, or guarantee of relations improvements.

On Saturday President Obama replied positively to Ayatollah Khamenei’s demand for the removal of all sanctions in the event of an agreement being reached. “It’s not surprising to me that the supreme leader, or a whole bunch of other people are going to try to characterize the deal in a way that protects their political position. But I know what was discussed in arriving at the political agreement,” Obama said.

President Obama’s policy of pursuing diplomacy, especially towards Iran and Cuba - the two most significant of U.S. soft-enemies - may succeed in showcasing a new era of exercising a different kind of power. But for a region like the Middle East this trend is new and causes many doubts.

Sealing a deal

The insecurity and repercussions of this upcoming nuclear deal with Iran have preoccupied the region, and have led to many regional powers to rethink their foreign policy, especially their longstanding good relations with the United States.

Not knowing the consequences of this deal - other nations in the region feel like the U.S. want to build an alliance with Iran, while abandoning its old regional allies.

This uncertainty and resistance might be seen as another challenge ahead for the Iran and U.S. administrations before sealing a deal.

President Obama invited the regional leaders to Camp David to assure his allies that a deal with Iran wouldn’t change relations with the U.S., and of course giving them an update about Lausanne agreement.

For Iran in different way, there’s a need to make a new approach to its neighbors and Western powers to prove the deal would benefit all, and not only Iran and the U.S..

What makes Iran’s neighbors hesitant to support a nuclear deal comes from their lack of information and dialogue, especially with Iran.

For most of Iran’s neighbors, not knowing what happens in the post deal era makes them worry about the stability of the region.

I believe it would have been better if, rather than President Obama inviting Arab leaders to Camp David, Iran’s Rowhani invited his Arab neighbors to the Caspian Sea to give them a firsthand briefing.

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Camelia Entekhabi-Fard is a journalist, news commentator and writer who grew up during the Iranian Revolution and wrote for leading reformist newspapers. She is also the author of Camelia: Save Yourself by Telling the Truth - A Memoir of Iran. She lives in New York City and Dubai. She can be found on Twitter: @CameliaFard

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.