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Opinion: Iran, the West and the Rest | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton (L) and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohamad Javad Zarif arrive for a statement on early November 24, 2013 in Geneva. (AFP PHOTO/FABRICE COFFRINI)

It seems that US President Barack Obama can only conclude agreements that are measured in months. He survived the political and economic crisis with the congressional Republicans by making a deal that will last only a few months, and this week he is boasting of securing an interim agreement with Iran that will end in six months. Commenting on the deal, US Secretary of State John Kerry, the eternal negotiator, said: “I believe that from this day—for the next six months—Israel is in fact safer than it was yesterday.”

In order to further complicate and confuse the scene, in addition to boosting Israeli hopes, Kerry added that further action is required on Iran’s part to reach a comprehensive deal, but did not clarify just what concessions the West will ask of Tehran over the next six months. During a televised interview with CNN commenting on the Geneva nuclear deal, Kerry said that if Iran wants to develop long-term relations with the US, it must change its conduct.

So, this step brings with it both hope and pain.

According to what has been published about the agreement, Iran appears to have made some economic and political gains. This includes the unfreezing of Iranian funds abroad, commitments not to impose new sanctions on its oil exports, and other economic gains. Khamenei regime needed this sanctions relief to calm public anger at the difficult economic situation in the country. In return for this, Iran offered nuclear concessions. Tehran committed to a framework that will make it very difficult for it to acquire nuclear weapons, pledging to adhere to an international nuclear inspections schedule according to specific criteria. The Iranians are skeptical, and never leave anything to chance.

What does this all mean?

Iran is being deliberate and delaying its military nuclear moment. The West has responded by offering funds and political recognition.

So this is a preamble to an agreement, not a full agreement by any means. A full agreement requires that each party examine the other until they can come to a long-term accord.

The Obama administration and the rest of the West have hailed the agreement as a political victory.

As for Iran, it also hailed the Geneva deal as a victory for the course being chartered by its supreme leader, with celebrations including some flexing of muscles and spicy discourse about the “Great Satan” intended for domestic consumption.

The Arabs are, by nature, sentimentalists, and so they are taking these proclamations at face value.

Iran’s regional supporters are also hailing the deal as a victory. In fact, Iraqi State of Law coalition MP Sami Al-Askari, a member of the Foreign Relations Subcommittee, claimed that the agreement represented a victory over Saudi Arabia! The Syrian Foreign Ministry thinks it should try and copy Iran’s Geneval deal in its own negotiations.

So this is how the US and its allies view the deal, and how Iran and its supporters view it. How do we Arabs really feel about it?