The Geneva nuclear agreement between Iran and P5+1 in November 2013 has entered its executive phase. During the past two months, the agreement has been evaluated from different angles. One way is also to ask what would have happened if the agreement had not been concluded?
First, the US Congress would have had more excuses to push for further crippling economic sanctions against Iran. Although hard-line US senators, under the heavy influence of pro-Israeli lobby, have still kept up their action plan, the implementation of the Geneva agreement will greatly defuse their efforts. At present, the main issue within the American policy circles is that new sanctions would break the existing fragile coalition among member states of the P5+1 group. With the current Iranian cooperation, it is rather unlikely that the European countries, as well as Russia and China follow suit with the US policy from this stage on. This per se could be a good reason for the suspension of the Senate's new sanctions plan against Iran.
Second, continuation of the sanctions would have led to further weakening of the Iran's national economy. Although some views maintain that given the spent costs for Iran further sanctions are unlikely to change Iran's nuclear policy at this stage and that Iran has not initially accepted to engage in the nuclear talks as a result of sanctions, one should accept that continuation of the sanctions has already weakened the country's national economy. Further prolongation of the current economic encounter between Iran and the West will consume Iran's economic stamina and this situation will not be beneficial to Iran's economic and political status as an emerging regional power. The damages arising from the continuation of sanctions against Iran are irreplaceable in certain fields i.e. the oil exports at the expense of Iran's pocket and to the benefit of some opportunist rivals such as Saudi Arabia through adding to their production capacity and taking Iran's traditional market.
Third, the political-security role of Iran's regional rivals would have increased. Such regional players as Saudi Arabia and Israel have traditionally perceived their increased regional role and influence at the expense of Iran's regional role. They have regularly sought to stoke tension in relations between Iran and the West, especially America. In an optimistic scenario, counties such as Turkey and Qatar are endeavoring to keep the regional power balance in their own interests, being consistently concerned about Iran's increased regional role. The Geneva nuclear deal and the subsequent increased Iran-West relations will strengthen Iran and its regional allies i.e. Syria, Iraq, Hezbollah's role at the expense of its regional rivals. In the coming days, the world would witness Iran's increased and constructive diplomatic efforts for solving certain regional issues, especially the ongoing Syrian crisis. This development would cause more divisions in the regional stances of Iran's rivals.
Fourth, Iran's international allies would have faced further passiveness in the P5+1. Some views inside Iran tend to believe that countries like Russia and China are actually benefiting from the escalation of sanctions against Iran and that they might not be very happy with a possible comprehensive deal as they think that the increased Iran-West relations will ultimately be at their expense. One of the positive effects of the Geneva deal is that closer relations between Iran and the West, bring up new competition and excitement in Iran's international relations, leading Russia and China to move away from their traditional passiveness in context of the P5+1 negotiations, taking more supportive actions to get closer to Iran. While one expects that their role in any forthcoming negotiations should be more active to the benefit of Iran, the classic pattern of their economic and political relations with Iran will be maintained and even strengthened as a result of the removal of sanctions. For example, a great amount of financial resources belonging to Russian companies, currently frozen in Western banks, will be released. Some of these companies are stockholders of some Western oil giants. Or China will be under no further pressures for the reduction of oil imports from Iran and the subsequent money transfer.
Fifth, terrorism and extremism would have increased across the region. The failure of the Geneva nuclear deal would have continued the existing distrust and discrepancies between Iran and the West over the regional issues. A natural result of that situation would have been further prolongation of such regional crises as the ongoing conflict in Syria. Failure to find a political solution [to the Syria crisis] through a regional and trans-regional cooperation would certainly provide new breeding grounds for religious extremism and growth of violent Sunni and al-Qaeda related forces in the region, who are in nature anti-Iranian. If this situation continues, the crisis would spill over into the neighboring Iraq (as we are witnessing in recent days in al- Anbar province), ultimately bringing about precarious effects for Iran's national security.
Sixth and finally, the possibility of waging a new war in the region would have increased. Perhaps, the most important aspect of the failure to reach an agreement would be the increased role of warmongering and anti-Iranian forces within the US power structure. Beyond the resistant and indomitable spirit of the Iranian nation, one should not forget that any war would have its own detrimental social, human and economic consequences for the nation, affecting a whole generation for many years to come. Avoiding a war is the fundamental task for any government.
The conclusion of the Geneva nuclear deal has changed the political and security equations at regional and international levels in favor of Iran, enabling the country, commensurate to its national power sources, to dictate its demands to the other side. This development is a first step on the long way to achieving a sustainable nuclear agreement which, if achieved, will release Iranian nation's stamina for the sake of economic development and prosperity, as well as strengthening the country's national and international statues. In its totality, therefore, the Geneva agreement has been so far a win for Iran.
About the author: Dr. Kayhan Barzegar, Chair of the Department of Political Science and International Relations at the Science and Research Branch of the Islamic Azad University. He is also Director of the Institute for Middle East Strategic Studies in Tehran.
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