Following a deal between Iran and P5+1 over the nuclear issue the US President Barack Obama said that the US together with their close allies and partners took the important first step toward a comprehensive solution that addressed the concerns they had with the Islamic Republic of Iran’s nuclear program. The deal can be aptly termed as a step-in-decade. The Iran-West thaw has surfaced after a decades long knot over the nuclear issue. Iran has agreed to stop installing new centrifuges, and not to use those installed but still inoperative. In return for Iran limiting its nuclear enrichment, the agreement provides for some $7 billion in relief from economic sanctions over six months.

This includes release of $4.2 billion in frozen oil assets and will allow Iran to continue exporting oil at current rates. It will also remove sanctions on gold, Iran’s auto sector and petrochemical exports, which account for approximately $1.5 billion in revenue for Iran. The agreement will also permit $400 million in tuition payments to schools for Iranian students studying abroad over six months. It may be noted that the sanctions have cost Iran $120 billion in lost revenue since the US and EU started imposing strict penalties on energy, ports, insurance, shipping, banking and other Iran-related transactions in 2010.

The debate in the US media, academia and media goes on. Another important contending narrative to highlight here is that of the Iran’s right to enrichment. Pakistan’s stance with regard to the Iran’s nuclear program and the deal in question is based on universal principles. The deal has removed the fear of a possible collision between Iran and the US (or Israel and NATO). It vindicates that the otherwise complex and seemingly irresolvable disputes can be settled through a democratic dialogue rather than head-on confrontation as it looked about a year ago.

By pulling out the strategic thorn of nuclear impasse, it seems that the dialogue process would move further on a positive path. If it does, Iran-US relations can reclaim mutually beneficial bondage as they had in the past. This is all the more necessary seeing that Iran and the US are likely to remain medium-to-long term neighbours as the US would never recede the space won in the region. By winning over, or having better relations with Iran, the US would be able to create a corridor of convenience, Iran-Pakistan-Afghanistan, which would connect four important world regions to include: the Middle East, South Asia, China, and the Central Asia.

The US-Iran relations, if improved will not be at the cost of the US allies in the Middle East. All of them have their own unique relations with the US and the remaining West. However, it remains to be seen as to how far Iran will go in allying with the US, especially if it affects its relations with the SCO (especially Russia and China). How far Israel will let the US-Iran rapprochement go is also a trillion dollar question only time will tell.

EHSAN MEHMOOD KHAN,

Lahore, December 2.