What the world will look like after the Iran and 5+1 deal; the US emerges as major power broker in Middle East

Ali Akbar Salehi, Head of Iran Atomic Energy Organization (AEOI), Mohammed Javad Zarif Iranian Minister for Foreign Affairs and Federica Mogherini High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the EC (from right to left).Mongherini, went to Vienna to participate in the nuclear negotiations with Iran. The Vice-President met with the E3/EU+3 Ministers for Foreign Affairs as well as Mohammed Javad Zarif. After several days of negotiations, the several parties had been able to reach an agreement. Zarif seems the happiest of then all for a good reason. He was looking forward to a hero’s welcome back to Tehran the next day. (EC Audiovisual Services, 14/07/2015 Location: Vienna - Palais Coburg).

Ali Akbar Salehi, Head of Iran Atomic Energy Organization (AEOI), Mohammed Javad Zarif Iranian Minister for Foreign Affairs and Federica Mogherini High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the EC (from right to left).Mongherini, went to Vienna to participate in the nuclear negotiations with Iran. The Vice-President met with the E3/EU+3 Ministers for Foreign Affairs as well as Mohammed Javad Zarif. After several days of negotiations, the several parties had been able to reach an agreement. Zarif seems the happiest of then all for a good reason. He was looking forward to a hero’s welcome back to Tehran the next day. (EC Audiovisual Services, 14/07/2015 Location: Vienna – Palais Coburg).

The first to travel to Tehran after the nuclear agreement was struck last week between Iran and the 5+1 (France, Russia, China, the United Kingdom, and the United States plus Germany) are the German Vice Chancellor Zigmar Gabriel and Laurent Fabius the French minister for Foreign Affairs. Understandably, French and German dignitaries are more welcomed to Iran than the British and the Americans, while the Chinese and the Russians don’t need to rush to Tehran to talk business, because Moscow and Beijing have already being present there all along the difficult years of the Iranian isolation.

The Americans and the by the same token the British are still not welcome in Iran. Last Tuesday the supreme religious leader of Iran Ali Hosseini Khamenei typically the highest authority in the country, commented negatively for the US saying that “Iran’s policies towards the arrogant US won’t change after the signing of the nuclear agreement”. The US Foreign Secretary John Kerry reacted cautiously to that and said that “I know that some-times things evolve differently than what certain public comments indicate”. In any case, the religious clout on Iran’s affairs has now greatly weakened and the progressive President Hassan Rouhani now calls the terms.

The Americans are not in a hurry

Anyhow, the Obama administration is not in a hurry over the Iranian developments because the US Congress has yet to vote on the deal. The Republicans are opposing the agreement but it would be very difficult for them to overrun the Presidential veto in the September vote. Not to forget that last Monday the United Nations endorsed the 5+1 deal with Iran, increasing the pressure on the US Congress to do the same. As things stand, the American government is so happy seeing Iran ready to appear in international markets selling oil against dollars that the White House doesn’t care to rush things, not in Washington nor in Tehran. We’ll see why down below.

More Iranian hydrocarbons on offer in the dollar markets mean a larger commercial base for the American money and cheaper energy prices. This last eventuality is thought to increase the pressure on Russia and President Putin, depriving Moscow of a large part of its foreign incomes. It’s obvious that the White House in rejecting the obstinate and in many respects blind Republican objections against the Iranian deal is taking good care of the fundamental American interests. The association of the dollar with the Iranian foreign trade increases the business base of the American money in the global level. It also strengthens the dollar’s unique position as the only world commercial and reserve currency, blocking any possible future challenges from the euro or the Chinese yuan-renminbi.

How did they do it?

But how did the Americans manage to overcome the internal opposition in Iran against whatever was even remotely connected with the US? Mind you though, that there is still strong resistance in Tehran against the US. Khamenei’s comment about the ‘arrogant US’ is one example of that. There are also reports by international press agencies that the omnipotent leadership of Iranian Revolutionary Guards considers the deal with the 5+1 as tantamount of a betrayal of Iran’s perennial principles. There are also outside powers which don’t feel at ease with the agreement.

Russia for more than one reason didn’t want to see a full return of Iran to the international arena and markets. Up to now Moscow was a privileged interlocutor to Tehran and had gained large contracts even in the crucial field of nuclear energy. Yet the US managed to bring everybody to the negotiations table and led the many years-long and strenuous discussions to a conclusion. In reality this is a case to be taught in the international relations and diplomacy schools.

Waiting patiently

Taking for granted the backing from Britain, France and later on from Germany the American diplomacy had to deal with a hostile inner-state religious and political establishment in Tehran. This establishment had also gained economic prerogatives that could be endangered from an opening to the world. However, the Americans were patient and waited until, invariably, the UN embargo touched the entire Iranian society. The internal Iranian public opinion bit by bit became impatient and finally understood that the only way that the society could start again breathing normally was to once more open up to the world. The only way to do that was to come to terms with the 5+1 world powers, where the Americans had a very strong saying.

The people wanted it

This internal reverse of the public opinion became apparent after the victory in the June 2013 elections of the conciliatory and progressive Hassan Rouhani who became the seventh President of Iran on 4 August 2013. Soon after that date his government started negotiations with the 5+1. The popular feeling for a return to the world quickly gained so strong a momentum in support of the President that overturned the internal reactions. So great became the people’s demands for conciliation with the rest of the world that those who opposed it within and without Iran were obliged to fall back. On Tuesday 14 July 2015, when the deal between the 5+1 and Iran was announced in Vienna, the people of Tehran and other major cities of the country took it massively to the streets celebrating crazily the end of their isolation from the world.

China supported the deal

Within the 5+1 group, apart from their three NATO allies, the Americans were also supported by China. All along the isolation years of Iran, Beijing kept close political and business contacts with Tehran. China has been buying Iranian oil through obscure ways for years. It seems that the Beijing leadership considered that it was better to reconnect Tehran with the open world markets where China offers whatever Iran needs at low prices and also continue profiting from cheap oil. This left Russia alone and finally Putin supported the deal mainly because he didn’t want to be seen as the only obstacle.

There is no doubt that everybody is to gain from the return of Iran to the world markets. Presumably, the US and China will be the first to take advantage of the deal. But Europe is also very well placed to win new contracts and market access in Iran. Only Russia has very little to profit, if not suffer a loss. Consumer goods and other more sophisticated products or heavy equipment is not the strong point of the Russian exports, while both countries will be competing for customers in the crude oil markets.

Changing the map

In total, the 5+1 deal with Iran is a major breakthrough for the US diplomacy. The reactions from Israel and the Sunni Muslim Kingdoms of the Arab Gulf, with Saudi Arabia first among them, will be rather easily managed by Washington. The US can cope well with the Iranian involvement in the Middle East and Tehran will be an invaluable ally in defeating the murderous ISIS fighters. On top of that, Iran may very well cooperate with the Kurd quasi autonomous administrations in Iraq and Syria, which are proving themselves to be the most reliable and effective allies of the US.

No doubt the Americans are step by step rewriting the map of the Middle East not only as far as borders are concerned but also in relation to wider spheres of influence. The Sunni Muslim states of the region including Turkey will be the first to lose some of their clout on the developments there.

 

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