Iran’s nuclear deal – Who gains, who loses?

AT long last, the United States and its allied partners have struck a deal to stop Iran from enriching uranium. Whether this deal will be effective in the long run or end up as a face-saving diplomatic effort, is yet to be seen. No matter who benefits from the deal, Iran gains materially.

In exchange for limits to its nuclear programme, economic sanctions have been lifted to a certain extent, although temporarily. An amount of US$6-7 billion would no doubt ease the impact of economic sanctions.

To the man on the street in Iran – the agreement is a token of "lost hope and happiness". Most Iranians are extremely happy because the deal has yielded a result which came after a series of disappointments – while suffocating sanctions were killing them off. It was not only a univocal relief – rather a psychological upliftment in the eyes of the world, that the Iranians are not making bombs. It is an indirect recognition that Iran is not developing nuclear power for war but for peace.

Iran's nuclear programme dates back to the time of Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, who initiated the programme with the help of the British, Germans and later the Americans. It would not be the whole truth to say that it was entirely the Shah's wish to have a nuclear programme in Iran. The western powers – mainly Britain and the US – actively collaborated with the Shah, who was their focal point in the Middle East, a faithful "caretaker" of their interests.

It is not easy to justify (if Ayatollah Khomeini did not force the Shah to flee from Iran) whether the Shah would have made the nuclear bomb and if it would have been used during the Iran-Iraq war. The situation changed however after the departure of the Shah. All efforts were made by his American allies to keep him statutably in Iran. But nothing worked.

Shah's recognition of Israel, corruption issues surrounding his family and the ruling elite and most of all, lack of support from the Shia clergy of Iran virtually made him persona non grata in his own country. It was ironical that as more support from the Americans and British poured in, opposition against him in Iran became stronger. By 1979 political unrest was transformed into a revolution and the Shah had to flee. His departure shocked the US intelligence agencies, which expected that under protection from Savak, working closely with the CIA, the Shah would remain in power for at least another 10 years.

The Shah was overthrown, apart from his corruption and dictatorship, for the reason that he was made a king by a non-Muslim western power, the United States.

Other factors such as oppression, brutality and extravagance also contributed to his ouster. The Shah's departure also put an end, at least for the time being, to the development of nuclear power in Iran. Western interest in helping the Shah in this regard gradually diminished. The US turned its interest towards Saudi Arabia for economic reasons.

Later, when the US made a U-turn from Iran and took a fancy to Saddam Hussein's Iraq, it started strengthening Iraq against Iran. It is now impossible to substantiate what "weapons of mass destruction", if at all, Saddam attempted to make. And if he did, who helped him to acquire the know-how.

To cut the story short, big players played the game and turned their backs on those whom they found unsuitable.

When Iran started enriching its uranium it posed a big problem for the US. Iran had been openly hostile towards Israel and Iran's strength was Israel's weakness.

Iran continued enriching its uranium and claimed that it was for peace, not for war. Iran's stubborn attitude – especially under its previous president, Ahmadinejad, created more fear and anxiety among Israel's supporters and sympathisers.

It was a gamble for US President Barack Obama to make a deal with President Rouhani. As mentioned earlier, it was a gain for Iran materially because of the relief from sanctions.

What Iran had acquired through enriching uranium, only the Iranians know. They have not revealed any details.

With the allotted six months – even if the enrichment of 5% uranium, it would not make much difference, if we compare this "gain" from lifting sanctions.

To be more specific: what Iran has possessed would not be lost.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will of course have access to uranium enrichment sites. But how transparent and flexible those would be, we have yet to see. Israel and Saudi Arabia are adamantly opposed to the deal.

So are many others. Strange enough, no one is talking openly about potential threats from Israel towards its neighbours.

With the signing of the nuclear deal, both the US and Iran have gained either economically or diplomatically. But it is yet to be seen if the deal would be effective beyond a temporary success. It is also to be remembered that a commitment is not made to be broken, yet it is necessary for both parties to be honest and faithful to it. If the world demands that only Iran would have to fulfil all the terms, it would neither be fair nor effective.

Khairul Bashar is a former journalist and has served in the UN. He now lectures on Communication, Journalism and Political Science at a university. Comments: