Harary: Grounds for Cooperation

by Paul Harary | 7/16/15 7:46pm

The recent nuclear accord struck between the P5+1 and Iran, the result of over 20 months of intense negotiation, is clearly a win-win. The deal not only promises to bring greater stability to a tumultuous Middle East, but also, perhaps more importantly, marks a shift in the historically adversarial relationship between the United States and Iran. Although there is still significant tension between the two nations, it sets a precedent for cooperation and compromise.

Iran stands to make tremendous economic gains as a consequence of the lifting of international trade sanctions, particularly the ban on crude oil exports. There is also expected to be a notable humanitarian impact, as Iran’s new access to international payment systems will facilitate the import of drugs and medical equipment. Additionally, the anticipated influx of foreign investment into the automobile, oil and hotel sectors will grow infrastructure and provide employment opportunities. The response in Iran to the news of the nuclear accord was overwhelmingly positive, with youths storming the streets to celebrate. President Barack Obama’s statement from the Rose Garden, in which he described the terms of the deal, was broadcast on televisions throughout the country. The younger generation of Iranians, particularly those hoping to study and travel abroad, took to social media to sound off in support of the agreement.

On the other hand, the United States has certainly accomplished its main objective: ensure that Iran does not achieve nuclear capabilities in the immediate future. While the deal is by no means a be-all-end-all solution, it does put into place numerous safeguards against a nuclear Iran for at least the next decade. These include the reduction of Iranian centrifuges, used to enrich uranium, by two-thirds, as well as the continuous surveillance of Iranian nuclear facilities by the International Atomic Energy Agency. There are also provisions for a “long-term presence in Iran” and ongoing communication between United Nations and Iranian representatives to ensure that the deal is not violated.

In the face of all these advantages, it at first might seem surprising that the nuclear deal is facing such stringent opposition. Many presidential hopefuls, however, are taking advantage of the opportunity for political posturing and claiming that the agreement does little to address Iran’s nuclear capabilities in the long-term. In addition, there are serious concerns in congress that the lifting of sanctions will bolster terrorist activity in the region.

Some vocal critics of the deal have raised objections regarding the threat of a richer, more powerful Iran. “Iran will receive billions in sanctions relief, a windfall to pursue its aggressive destabilizing agenda in the region and beyond” Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said. This viewpoint, that keeping the Iranian people poor and cut off from economic and educational opportunities is in the best interest of the U.S., flies in the face of recent history. It is when the standard of living is kept low and the potential for social mobility smothered that countries are the most volatile and susceptible to extremism.

A clear example of this can be seen in the aftermath of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, when Afghanistan was left in chaos without the necessary foreign aid and investment to help the nation rebuild. The U.S. supplied billions of dollars in arms to the Mujahideen militants during their fight to expel the Soviet invaders, but was unwilling to spend even a fraction of that amount to support the 3.3 million Afghan refugees. Many blame this attitude for the rise of the Taliban and the prevalence of violent terrorist groups. So rather than fear a more developed and educated Iran, Americans should see the deal as helping bring Iranians into modern society, away from an atmosphere that is conducive to extremism and terrorist organizations.

It will be through compromise and peaceful collaboration that anti-American sentiment is reduced in the Middle East. By opening channels of communication and allowing Iran to participate in the international forum, the U.S. and its partners will begin to repair an antagonistic relationship. Although it certainly will not occur overnight, it is imperative to pass the nuclear arms accord in order to start this process.