Iran’s new administration heralds a change; one that has the fragile potential for lasting peace and prosperity
The new political leadership in Iran seems determined to demonstrate a real transition from the former regime, or at least it appears to be willing to do so. The hardline aggressive tone of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been replaced by a softer and more pragmatic one, as embodied in Dr Hassan Rouhani’s speech. Rouhani has stressed that his presidency will pave the way for a new era and that he would follow “the path of moderation and justice, not extremism”. The extent to which electoral and post-electoral promises will be kept remains to be seen, although the first signs are seemingly positive indicators of change.
Rouhani seems to be trusted by the people of Iran, who place high hopes on his term. The Iranians are certainly tired of the economic sanctions, which have harshly impoverished the population. As Rouhani emphasized during his first UN appearance, unjust sanctions imposed on Iran actually harm the common people who do not have the means to cope with them. By pursuing the sanctions on Iran it is the latter who are targeted and not the political elites and/or the State.
We must recall that Rouhani has inherited a complex situation both domestically and internationally. While the priority is to be placed on helping Iranians deal with economic hardships, the domestic challenges cannot be resolved without engaging with the international scene as well. Therefore, the difficulty is twofold for the new leadership. No matter how well-intentioned the Rouhani’s administration might be, in reality, the tasks it faces are huge, from trust building and preserving its legitimacy to triumphing over the economic crisis. The Geneva Deal will be one of the key tests for assessing whether the new Iranian leadership represents a new presence on the international arena and a real transition for the Islamic Republic of Iran.
The new president, in his first UN appearance, has pointed out two main remarks regarding the nuclear program; first, the imperative that it be used exclusively for peaceful ends, and second, the need to go ahead with uranium enrichment as a necessary condition for achieving the first end. Amid the skepticism of the American Congress, US Secretary of State John Kerry pushed for the conclusion of a new deal with Iran regarding the development of the nuclear programme. He referred to this period of trust building between the P5+1 group of nations and Iran as a very sensitive diplomatic period, which could turn out to be a historic transition point for the Middle East. Indeed, diplomatic skills and trust will be major assets to be showcased. The Geneva Deal might be the most significant brokering deal reached over a decade with Iran. Its potential for success depends on the sincerity of all the stakeholders. Iranian Foreign Minister, Mohammed Javad Zarif has stated recently that the Geneva Deal is a “process of attempting to restore confidence.”
Iran’s new tone is pushing for constructive and substantive negotiation, it does not seem that the ‘new’ Iran is looking for conflict or violence. Rouhani reiterated, on many occasions, the need to shift away for the policy of ultimatums and deterrence towards one of dialogue and bridge-building. It looks as though Iran will be given a last chance to prove its good intentions. The first consequence to be expected is the gradual relief from the international sanctions. However, these sanctions are still viewed by Iran as impediments, which could terminate the agreement. Thus, Iran is prompted to warranty its good will despite the pressures. Alternatively, if the country loses what is perhaps a very last chance it is being granted, I am afraid it will become increasingly difficult to end the tension or guarantee peace and well-being for its population in the midst of an already unstable region. The Geneva Deal is not just a deal between Iran and the P5+1, it is a deal with a regional outreach. Its consolidation in the coming months offers joyous and peaceful prospects for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region as a whole as this interim accord does hold the keys to unlock several regional stalemates, including the Syrian crisis and the wars through proxies.
Finally, it is to be emphasized that the level of trust is already extremely low and that any faulty step may lead to another looping round of sanctions. Iran has everything to gain if it fills its part of the contract and everything to lose if it defaults on any of the clauses of this interim six-month test deal. If Hassan Rouhani and his colleagues decide to make the ‘right’ decisions and place its people at the centre, it must take this historic moment very seriously and prove right the ones who still may want to take its words at face value. If the Geneva deal is just one step and not necessarily a land sliding transition, it remains a beacon of hope, for the peace and prosperity much deserved by the Land of Persia.
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