The nuclear agreement with Iran will change the Middle East, but whether it will lead to greater stability in this region seems highly unlikely, at least in the short term. However, already it is helping Iran to project a more positive image on the international stage and will lead to new alliances as well as rivalries in this explosive region.
The hand extended by Iran’s Shiite President Rouhani before the end of negotiations was turned down by King Salmon, the Sunni Muslim leader of Saudi Arabia, Iran’s political and religious rival in the region. Israel, vehemently opposed to the agreement, is feeling increasingly isolated and insecure. There have been positive reactions in the West to Iran’s offer to join forces against “Islamic State” (IS). Yet in the near future, there is no real hope of political change within Iran, nor is it about to abandon the anti-Americanism that is a cornerstone of Iranian policy.
The nuclear agreement with Iran is a compromise that does not fulfil the objectives that the P5+1* hoped to achieve. It is welcomed in Iran because it means an end to sanctions and might allow the country to have its own nuclear weapons at some point in the future. US critics of the deal claim that the control regime comprises too many loopholes.
But Iran is not going to violate the agreement for the time being. Indeed, whatever its shortcomings, the deal was preferable to the alternatives, such as a military solution or acquiescence.
With the control regime that was negotiated as part of the deal there is a chance of Iran abiding by it, since the merest suspicion of non-compliance would lead to sanctions.
There is a possibility that, with time, Iran could evolve into a reliable partner in the fight against IS. This together with economic and industrial cooperation could plant the seeds for the growth of mutual trust.
However, the equation is not complete without Saudi Arabia and the struggle for political and strategic hegemony in the region, not to mention the religious conflict between the Sunni and Shia branches of Islam. Moreover, the risk of a new arms race is real. A new harmonised Middle East Policy among the permanent members of the UN Security Council is not only desirable, but also necessary.
*5 permanent members of the UN Security Council + Germany
Hartmut Bühl, Editor-in-Chief