The Iranian elections saw a moderate Hassan Rouhani being voted to power as Pesident.He has been making the right noises about peace,development,reconciliation, human rights and more freedom for his people.
What he also has been doing is exchanging letters with US President Barack Obama which heightened
the prospect of a possible thaw in the US-Iran relations which have been strained since the 1979 Iranian revolution and the hostage crisis involving US embassy staff in Tehran.
All ears were trained on Obama when he came to the UN General Assembly as to what he will say on Iran. What he did offers hope of a new beginning in US-Iran relations.
The United States and Iran have been isolated from one another since the Islamic Revolution of 1979. This mistrust has deep roots. Iranians have long complained of a history of U.S. interference in their affairs, and America’s role in overthrowing an Iranian government during the Cold War. On the other hand, Americans see an Iranian government that has declared the United States an enemy, and directly – or through proxies – taken Americans hostage, killed U.S. troops and civilians, and threatened our ally Israel with destruction.
I don’t believe this difficult history can be overcome overnight – the suspicion runs too deep. But I do believe that if we can resolve the issue of Iran’s nuclear program, that can serve as a major step down a long road towards a different relationship – one based on mutual interests and mutual respect.
Since I took office, I have made it clear – in letters to the Supreme Leader in Iran and more recently to President Rouhani – that America prefers to resolve our concerns over Iran’s nuclear program peacefully, but that we are determined to prevent them from developing a nuclear weapon. We are not seeking regime change, and we respect the right of the Iranian people to access peaceful nuclear energy. Instead, we insist that the Iranian government meet its responsibilities under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and UN Security Council resolutions.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Leader has issued a fatwa against the development of nuclear weapons, and President Rouhani has just recently reiterated that the Islamic Republic will never develop a nuclear weapon.
President Rouhani in his address called for a peaceful resolution of all outstanding issues and once again reiterated his country’s pledge to not develop nuclear weapons but maintaining that it reserves its rights to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.
Iran’s nuclear program – and for that matter, that of all other countries – must pursue exclusively peaceful purposes. I declare here, openly and unambiguously, that, notwithstanding the positions of others, this has been, and will always be, the objective of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Nuclear weapon and other weapons of mass destruction have no place in Iran’s security and defense doctrine, and contradict our fundamental religious and ethical convictions. Our national interests make it imperative that we remove any and all reasonable concerns about Iran’s peaceful nuclear program.
The second objective, that is, acceptance of and respect for the implementation of the right to enrichment inside Iran and enjoyment of other related nuclear rights, provides the only path towards achieving the first objective. Nuclear knowledge in Iran has been domesticated now and the nuclear technology, inclusive of enrichment, has already reached industrial scale. It is, therefore, an illusion, and extremely unrealistic, to presume that the peaceful nature of the nuclear program of Iran could be ensured through impeding the program via illegitimate pressures.
In light of the above two statements,it can be said that the letter diplomacy between the US and Iran has allowed both countries to move past their earlier hardened positions to a more meaningful engagement and a peaceful resolution on Iran’s nuclear weapons development.
That an expected handshake didn’t take place is good as it would raised the expectations of results too high and also given the naysayers or hawks on both sides reasons to get after their respective leaders. More so with Rouhani who has to answer the clerics.
The possible thaw leading to resumption of full diplomatic relations has a bearing for Iran,the region at large and for the US.
Iran has been under sanctions over its nuclear program for years now. With oil exports dropping, it has seen its economy flounder and living standards drop in what earlier used to be one of the better states in the Middle East. Iran has a proud cultural heritage extending thousands of years with skilled people who have been deprived of their dreams due to geopolitics. Movement on Iran’s nuclear program will lead to relaxation of sanctions which will allow it to export oil and also import vital components to drive its industries. At some stage,it could also lead to Iran being taken off the list of sponsors of terrorism.
The implication for Israel will be immense. Iran has been a vocal critic of Israel and its occupation of Palestinian Territories. It allegedly supports terrorist movements like Hezbollah that targets Israel. In a change of stance from the earlier President of Iran Ahmedinejad, Rouhani has recognized the holocaust and atrocities on Jews during the Second World War. If Iran scales down its anti Israel stance, Israel will be a lot secure with lesser chance of hostilities that could have escalated to potential use of WMDs.
The US-Iran thaw has a bearing on the situation in Syria. Most analysts say that US role in Syria is aimed at Iran who is the principle backer of the Assad regime and undermine the Shia regime. While the US will continue its efforts to bring Assad to task for his alleged role in Chemical Weapons use on his people, we may see the US tone down its hardline stance.
On the other hand, old allies in the region like Saudi Arabia will watch the moves closely. The Saudis and Iranians are at the opposite end of the Muslim Shia-Sunni divide looking to establish themselves as a dominant power.
Another country to be affected by the US-Iran coming together is Pakistan. Had this happened a few years earlier, we may have seen the war in AfPak go in a different direction. US could have got access to Iranian ports to supply its troops and not depended on Pakistan and in fact gone after terror sanctuaries in Pakistan with impunity without having to worry about supply disruption as it saw post Salala incident. Even so, as the 2014 drawdown comes around, if there is any quick movement in relations, Iran could be an alternate route for the Americans whereby bypassing Pakistan which is now largely unstable and attacks on retreating troops by terrorists,likely. So the US itself stands to gain from the possible resolution of issues with Iran.
India always has had great relations with Iran except that in recent times it voted against Iran in the IAEA and also under US pressure scaled down its oil imports from Iran. Iran was India’s second largest oil supplier a position that Iraq has now taken. It is possible that the shelved Indo-Iran gas pipeline may also be revived. Greater trade and investment opportunities for India opens up as Iran provides India a gateway to Central Asia and also into Afghanistan. Iran and India share common interests in Afghanistan against the Taliban having cooperated with the Northern Alliance against the Taliban.
The Iranian elections and the coming of Rouhani can prove to be a historic moment in the region’s recent history having far reaching implications for many more countries around the world. The US will watch Iran closely putting it in a trust but verify mode till it eventually in a verifiable manner comes clean on the nuclear program.