Can Obama attract Iran close to the US sphere of influence?

(L-to-R) British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, US Secretary of State John Kerry, Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. Mogherini and Zarif walk to deliver the famous Press conference of 02/04/2015, where they confirmed the eventual return of Iran to the world community. (EC Audiovisual Services. Lausanne, 2/4/2015).

(L-to-R) British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, US Secretary of State John Kerry, Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. Mogherini and Zarif walk to deliver the famous Press conference of 02/04/2015, where they confirmed the eventual return of Iran to the world affairs. (EC Audiovisual Services. Lausanne, 2/4/2015).

The best indications about the fairness of a deal are that all the parties directly involved in it can claim victory, and when it comes to the detailed terms they feel they didn’t get exactly what they wanted. This is exactly what happened after the six major world powers (the P5+1 group of countries, the United States, France, Britain, Russia, China and Germany) and Iran agreed last week to sing a comprehensive deal to be penned in detail before 30 June. Iran is to close down large parts of its allegedly nuclear arms production program, while the six powers led by the US undertook the obligation to lift a package of decades old sanctions which have crippled the former country.

In this case there are more signs that the agreement is a fair one. Hardliners in Iran, the US and the Middle East are opposing the deal on the grounds that the other side took more and gave less. In any case even the announcement of the prospective agreement has shaken most world markets and dazed international relations. Oil and gold quotes, the Wall Street, London, Frankfurt and Asian capital markets, they all felt the impact of the news strongly. On top of that the key geostrategic areas of the Middle East, the east Mediterranean and beyond have been shaken. Not without good reason some weeks ago the European Sting published an article entitled, “Can the US-Iran rapprochement change the world?”

Even Washington is divided

In the US the deal has triggered a new conflict between the Republicans of the Congress who oppose it strongly and President Barack Obama, who wants to leave it to the world as his Presidency legacy. The Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is also on roof tops, denouncing the agreement as a vital risk for his country’s survival. Some weeks ago Netanyahu was invited by the GOP controlled Congress to deliver a speech in the US legislative. It came to be centered on the Israeli objections against the US-Iran rapprochement. The US Republicans offered the Israeli PM the rare privilege to address the American legislative for a third time, an honor that only Winston Churchill had in the past. Obama protested the Netanyahu speech in the Congress as external meddling in the US foreign policy.

It’s not only Israel that opposes the Iranian deal. The oil rich Sunni Arab kingdoms of the Gulf are also alarmed with the prospect of Shia Iran normalizing its relations with the rest of the world and reappearing in oil markets. The recent violent upsurge of the clash between the Sunni and the Shia factions in Yemen is obviously a side effect of the possible US-Iran rapprochement. The forceful intervention in the Yemen civil war by a group of Sunni Arab countries under Saudi Arabia, indicates that the Saudis are not going to easily accept the comeback of Iran in the world and the Middle East affairs.

The US to gain most

In any case the undisputable winner from the final conclusion of the Iranian deal will be the US. The return of the Iranian oil in the dollar markets will support the American interests in more than one way. For one thing it will confirm the supremacy of the US dollar in the global economy. On top of that it is an open secret that the Obama administration favors the cheaper oil for more than one reason. Firstly it will help solidify economic growth in the US and the entire world. Secondly it will dent the Russian economy by cutting down its receipts from oil exports and by that it may weaken Putin’s political clout on the vast country. The international oil markets have already felt the prospect of the additional offer.

Within Iran the news about the prospective deal with the six world powers and the end of sanctions brought thousands celebrating it in the streets of Tehran and the other major cities. Not to forget that the UN sanctions against Iran are quite severe and range from almost total ban of commercial transactions including oil exports to complete financial isolation. This is a people who had been practically cut off from world affairs for more than three decades. Of course the groups close to the autocratic religious regime and the Iranian establishment are not at all happy with the possible opening of the country to the world.

Strong opposition

In the US things are more complicated than that. A large group of Republican congressmen, at least 47 of them (they have signed a relevant letter) are strongly opposing the deal with Iran that the Obama administration hopes to finalize before 30 June. The senators are brandishing the practically non-existent nuclear danger of Iran in order to block the agreement. They have already announced that they will try to block the Presidential veto in the Congress. A round number of 67 senators can do that. Along the same lines moves the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who uses much stronger arguments and emits totally negative feelings towards the P5+1 and Iran deal.

The problem is though that last week’s deal is just an initial agreement on a number of basic “parameters”. The most important of them are that the Iranian technical ability for uranium enrichment is to be greatly reduced and be subjected to full external audit. In return the UN is expected to revoke all sanctions after a comprehensive agreement is reached. However this is not an easy task at all.

A not yet accomplished deal

According to Brussels sources the technical and the diplomatic work needed is huge. Understandably the agreement has to cover every small detail because it won’t be only the directly involved parties to try cheating the other side. Those who oppose the deal are also going to zoom in every probable loose or ambiguous phrase and make it a banner of their campaign.

In any case a full agreement between the P5+1 and Iran will certainly change to the better the prospects of the world economy and create a more stable geostrategic horizon in this precarious part of the world. The Iranian threat can soon be a thing of the past. It won’t be the first time in history that the Shia Iran, the Sunni Saudi Arabia and the Hebrew Israel all were solid members of the US sphere of influence.

 

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