The nuclear agreement between western powers, led by the US, and Iran is historic. It doesn’t matter if US President Barack Obama, who threatened to veto any Congress move to block the agreement, wants to make this a lasting legacy – a President who built bridges with two old enemies, Cuba and Iran. If one is realistically to apportion credit, it must go to Iran’s leadership and its inherent consensus-developing capabilities which are far more evolved than the mullah-driven theocracy imagined by the western world. A new generation of Iranian leaders, seeking an end to isolation and sanctions, saw little merit in continuing an adversarial approach if the west was willing to approach it as an equal. Remember, the nuclear programme is seen by Iranians as an issue of pride, even as – contrary to fulminations by the likes of Israel’s Netanyahu – many Iranian leaders have disavowed any intention of building an atomic bomb. Iran’s Supreme Leader, in fact, once declared that such a weapon was against religious principles.
So, slowly, a consensus and consequent change was effected in Iran’s internal politics. From the often unnecessarily controversy-prone Ahmadinejad to gradually pave the way for a leadership stressing the need to reach out to the world and negotiate on equal terms, the change was a well-thought out process cognizant of factors ranging from the need to provide opportunities for Iran’s massive youth demographic as well as the strategic sense of enlarging a footprint in the region. In sum, Iran has emerged with its respect intact and is now firmly on the path to end the imposed pariah status. And wherever the glitzy briefings may be held, the real credit goes to the sagacious Iranians.
Of course, this agreement was long in the making, stretching from back-channel US-Iran meetings in 2013. And it may well seem that the terms of the agreement deny Iran any capacity to build a bomb and severely restricts its nuclear activities, but that was the bottomline of the west, and as said, it was moot whether Iran was ever interested in weaponisation. If all goes well, sanctions on Iran will be lifted, a new era of cooperation – not between friends but between entities still at loggerheads with each other – can be inaugurated, and entities like Israel, always on the lookout for war, can perhaps have less baleful influence. In South Asia, India and Pakistan would also do well to learn a thing or two on how negotiations on seemingly irreconcilable positions can be conducted.