The arm wrestle between the international community and Iran has one unequivocal winner: Iran. Despite the happy and hopeful comments released by most of the members of the international community, the future may not be so bright as depicted. Following the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) signed in Vienna on 14 July 2015, the reactions in the diplomatic arena were different: words of confidence from the 5+1 negotiators and words of hostility towards the USA and Israel from the Iranian religious leadership are a proof of the way the accord is perceived by the involved parties.
Just as the reactions can be different, in the same way analysis can be, according to the standing point that is held. From the pages of this magazine itself two points of view are expressed by Gabriele Vargiu and Piero De Luca, respectively the USA – Middle Eastern partners relations and on the energy market.
The diplomatic quarrel between the 5+1 negotiators and the Islamic Republic started in 2006 with very distant positions. The 5+1 intent, although “swinging” over the time, was to prevent Iran from any future nuclear weapon capacity. An aspect that the deal itself does not accomplish. At the end, Iran got what it wanted: to get rid of sanctions and see legitimised what it had built illegally. A faits accomplis card that proved to be winning. From the civilian point of view it is therefore very easy to predict that Iran aims to increase the oil and gas production to the pre-sanctions capacity, but also to upgrade its electrical system through the use of nuclear energy for civilian purposes. This would allow the regime to fill the gap it has in the supply of electrical energy produced through conventional means in order to meet its domestic demand.
One element that emerges from the deal is the different way the West perceives the Middle East and the way the Middle East perceives itself. The West has often had the feeling of being on a higher stage, therefore allowed to teach the Middle East on how to solve its disputes. The relations of the West, particularly of the USA, with Middle Eastern actors and issues, such as ISIS, the Syrian crisis, the growth of radical Islam, the Arab-Israeli conflict, prove how at the end the West continually compromise with its security by not confronting the actors with the same standards it applies to itself.
Large, and sometimes harsh, discussions are currently held in the USA and Iran, respectively by the Congress and the Iranian Parliament, as to accept the deal or reject it. In the case of the USA, a large part of the Republicans oppose the deal as it does not prevent Iran from being a threat and acquire a nuclear weapon in the long term. While in the case of the Islamic Republic, the most conservative MPs oppose it as they see it a gift to the West. In both cases the respective administration, Obama’s and Rouhani’s, are working on convincing their domestic opposition to see the good, in their view, that can come from it and eventually to accept the deal.
The deal leaves the door open to several considerations. One of them concerns the inspections and the burden of proof. The deal is based on the bona fide of its parties, but it implicitly gives Iran a wider space of manoeuvre than the one granted to the opposing parties. What happens if Iran does not comply with the deal? According to the JCPOA, Iran is not required to prove it is respecting the deal, but the burden of proof is on the international community to prove that the Islamic Republic is not respecting the deal. Therefore, if there is the suspect that Iran is not complying, the international arena will have to justify its suspicion by providing proofs of its assumptions. This is an own goal as it means that all the intelligence gathered about the Iranian nuclear programme will have to be openly disclosed and discussed. Including the way those information were gathered.
Other considerations concern the non-request to Iran of change of policy towards the USA and Israel: the Islamic Republic has not been asked to recognise the USA and restore formal diplomatic relations. But most of all its status as the main sponsor of terror activities around the world is not questioned. Many analysts have raised the concern whether or not this deal will open the gate to an implicit amnesty towards Qassem Suleimani, head of the Quds force in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and regarded as one of the main world leading terrorists and trainer and one of main strategy masterminds of groups such as Hamas, Hezbollah, the Shia militia in Iraq and some groups of Afghan Talibans.
The deal will most likely open a race to nuclear capabilities and acquisition of conventional weapons. The Sunni Arab countries, that silently oppose the deal, will most likely start programmes that will lead them to develop similar capabilities. The silent war for the hegemony over the Middle East between Shia and Sunni countries is most likely destined to become louder. In this war Iran has always been a step ahead of Sunni countries: the deal, and therefore the permission to develop nuclear energy programmes, has set them now in an even stronger position. In this race it will be more difficult for the international arena to control the genuineness of the intentions of the parties.
A few considerations concern the security of the State of Israel. Will Iran ever use a nuclear weapon against Israel? It will hardly happen. What can the Iranian regime do against Israel? Smuggle short distance rockets with small nuclear heads to terror groups, such as Hezbollah and Hamas. The JCPOA, in fact, does not really mention the collateral aspects that can follow its stipulation.
In 2010, the American author and speaker Daniel Gordis analysed carefully the threat to Israel: “What must be understood is that the threat to Israel is not that Iran will one day use the bomb. No, Iran merely needs to possess the bomb to undermine the central purpose of Israel’s existence—and in so doing, to reverse the dramatic change in the existential condition of the Jews that 62 years of Jewish sovereignty has wrought. The mere possession of a nuclear weapon by Iran would instantly restore Jews to the status quo ante before Jewish sovereignty, to a condition in which their futures would depend primarily on the choices their enemies—and not Jews themselves—make.”
It will hardly be before three or four years that the first effects of the JCPOA will be seen. In the meanwhile the whole issue may be regarded as a gamble, a failure, or a success. All voices have their own pros and cons.