Iran nuclear deal – a historic milestone or the fuel for increased tensions in the region?

In the context of decades of animosity and distrust between the United States and Iran, the recent preliminary framework agreement on Iran’s nuclear programme that aims to curb nuclear activities in return for a gradual softening of sanctions that have crippled the Iranian economy, is certainly historic.

However, in today’s volatile and tumultuous Middle East, where Iran has an influential hand that stretches from the Houthi Shia onslaught in Yemen, the direct Iranian involvement as Iraq pushes back Islamist State (IS) rebels, to the devastating civil war in Syria and not forgetting the influence of Iranian backed Hezbollah in Lebanon, for a number of countries in the region, the connotations from this deal could not have come at a worse time.

As US President Barrack Obama hailed the agreement, his next task is to sway unconvinced members of Congress, in particular Republicans who have threatened to veto the agreement or even impose fresh sanctions. Then he must the repeat the trick with weary allies.

The agreement with the P5+1 countries (US, UK, France, Russia, China and Germany), was also praised by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, with jubilant scenes of victory across Iran.

As both sides seemingly lauded the agreement, is it truly a mutual win for both parties?

Under the agreement, Iran is obliged to reduce its stockpile of enriched uranium that could ultimately be used to make nuclear weapons as well as drastically slash the number of centrifuges at its disposal.

Iran has long denied claims that it seeks a nuclear weapon, emphasizing its right to nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

However, Western unease with Tehran was merely accelerated with unveiling of Iran’s nuclear programme. Hardline rhetoric from Tehran especially from the tenure of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad hardly settled nerves.

For sceptics in the region particularly Saudi Arabia, who is spearheading an Arab military coalition to curtail the advance of Houthi rebels in Yemen, sanctions relief coupled with the fact that Iranian nuclear programme remains in place in one form or another, will just add fuel to the regional fire.

There is a rapidly developing Shia-Sunni conflict line in the Middle East that is leading to proxy wars from Lebanon to Yemen. There is an increasing if indirect showdown between Saudi Arabia and Iran across this line.

The Saudis were already alarmed at the perceived cooperation between Iran and the US over the fight back against IS in Iraq. The Saudis have already warned the US over what they deemed as the Iranian takeover of Iraq

Now, with signs of increased diplomatic channels with Tehran, and the potential for an even stronger Iran both economically and militaristically as a result of the nuclear agreement, regional anxiety, arms race and battle for influence will only increase.

More frenzied alarm was in Israel where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was deeply skeptical at the agreement that he believed threatened the survival of his state. Reassurances by Obama and further security pledges will have had little impact on Israeli reservations.

In the deeply interconnected fault lines, the nuclear agreement cannot be judged alone. It has wider ramifications on the resolution of Palestinian statehood, influence of Hezbollah and even potential peace in Syria and stability in Iraq and Yemen.

On the surface, increased Western diplomatic channels with Iran could lead to cooperation on the resolution or at least calming of these matters.

However, decades of animosity in the region and the West are not about to disappear with the mere stroke of a pen.

First Published: Kurdish Globe

Other Publication Sources: Various Misc

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>