Middle East expert: Nuclear deal a 'win-win' for Iran, U.S.
International negotiators reached a deal earlier today that would limit Iran's nuclear program in exchange for an easing of economic sanctions that have hurt the nation's economy.
Mahmood Monshipouri, a professor of international relations at SF State and editor of the forthcoming book "Inside the Islamic Republic: Social Change in Post-Khomeini Iran," called the deal a "win-win" for both the U.S. and Iran and an opportunity for Iran to reintegrate with the broader international community. Below, he shares his thoughts on the agreement:
What is your general sense of the deal reached today?
This deal could lead to tactical cooperation between Iran and the U.S. in the region as well as potentially result in something much broader: strategic recalibration or realignment of the relations between the two countries. Either way, it is a win-win situation for both, to say the least. Iran could fight ISIS, could play a stabilizing role in Afghanistan and Iraq and could help facilitate the resolution of the Syrian puzzle. Its potential for export of natural gas to Europe via Turkey is incredibly high, an economic development that could drastically reduce Europe's dependency on Russia's natural gas. Iran could be entering a new phase of engagement with the international community, breaking out of its economic and diplomatic isolation. In my view, the critical importance of the nuclear deal far exceeds its technical aspects.
How will this deal help bring Iran back into the international community?
It confers legitimacy on Iran as a player that has reconciled a key difference with core Western world players -- the U.S., France, England and Germany -- and will also give Iran a chance to engage with regional issues, in which the West has a major stake. Iran's active cooperation will be sought in matters relating to the stability and peace in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen and possibly in Palestine.
Are there any risks, either to the United States and its allies or to Iran?
I don't think so. This agreement is robust and has been designed to considerably reduce the tensions between Iran and the rest of world's key players. There is always a possibility that Iran might decide to weaponize its civilian nuclear program, but the likelihood of that happening has been drastically curtailed, at least for the next 10 to 15 years. Barring any major hurdle to its implementation, this accord will go down as an achievement of historic proportion, demonstrating the triumph of diplomacy over coercion and the threat of force.
Why was Iran willing to strike a deal now?
There are several reasons. First, Iran was recognized as an equal player around the negotiating table. It was treated with respect and juridical equality and recognized not as a member of an "axis of evil," as the former President Bush wrongfully labeled it, but as a legitimate partner in diplomacy and negotiations. Second, there have been new changes in the region's political dynamics with the genesis of the so-called "Islamic State in Iraq and Syria" [ISIS], which has posed a major threat to Iran, Iraq, Syria, the U.S. and even to the countries that have had a hand, albeit indirectly, in its creation -- countries such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey. Third, crippling sanctions on Iran's banking, finance and oil and gas industry did in fact provide yet another incentive for Tehran to come to the table and resolve the nuclear dispute.
What is the next step in U.S.-Iran relations?
First and foremost, both parties must take proper confidence-building measures to build trust between each other. If the U.S. Congress kills this deal, which frankly I doubt will be the case, it would add to the mistrust between the two countries. The same is also true if the radicals in Iran deal a mortal blow to this deal. On their part, Iranians must do their best to implement this accord both substantively and in a timely manner. Thirty-seven years of enmity between the two nations requires a steady and slow progression toward rebuilding trust and finding grounds for compromise, cooperation and, if possible, building new strategic understanding and cooperation around certain key regional issues such as addressing security, development and human rights, both regionally and internally.