THE INTERIM NUCLEAR DEAL SIGNED IN Geneva in November between Iran and six world powers (the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany) was a momentous breakthrough after many years of tensions, threats and stalled talks. It represents the first formal agreement between long-time rivals Washington and Tehran in no less than 34 years. The deal itself is a win-win for both sides. Iran gets to continue enriching uranium and maintain its nuclear programme, while getting sanctions relief to the tune of $7bn, which will help its struggling economy. The agreement leaves room for further relief and benefits in this regard, depending on successful implementation and cooperation from Tehran.
The potential for a complete lifting of international and unilateral sanctions would be a tremendous economic boost not just for Iran, but also for western companies that have long been forbidden from doing business with a country that possesses great potential wealth, and represents a large and relatively untapped market.
The agreement also paves the way for a thawing of relations between Tehran and key western powers, which have been strained since the Islamic revolution of 1979. Crucially for the West, Iran has committed to halt uranium enrichment above 5% purity, well below the threshold required for weapons-grade material (more than 90%).
Iran comes out on top
Despite the fact that both sides gain tangible benefits from the deal, Tehran clearly comes out on top when looking at the broader context, vis-a-vis the US in particular.
Iranians gave their nuclear negotiators a hero's welcome, subsequently boosting the popularity of recently-elected President Hassan Rouhani. On the other hand, his American counterpart Barack Obama has come under strong criticism domestically by Republicans and Democrats alike, with lawmakers from both parties threatening new sanctions that Tehran says would scupper the Geneva deal.
Israel, which has huge political and electoral influence in the US, has also expressed strong condemnation, its Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu bluntly describing it as "a bad agreement." Though America's Arab allies, particularly those in the Gulf, have publicly expressed cautious optimism, their reactions in private are likely to be more negative.
Prior to the deal, regional powerhouse Saudi Arabia had been uncharacteristically vocal in its concern about the possibility of rapprochement between its arch-rival Iran and the US. There...