The long debated and awaited nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers, including US and EU was signed in Vienna on July 14. For obvious reasons it was widely reported, discussed and analyzed in the global media and political circles around the world. But how would it impact Iran herself and the region around her is the most relevant aspect of the emerging situation to be pondered over by the neighbouring countries.

Political leadership on both sides needed strong will to bridge the political and ideological gap that had existed between them for the last so many decades. Just a few years ago such a development would have been unthinkable. For the Iranian Ayatollahs, talking to the “Great Satan” (US), whose physical and ideological defeat was the ultimate goal of the Islamic Republic, was an anathema. After brainwashing generations of Iranians to achieve this goal, taking a U turn on it must not have been easy. Similar difficulties must have been faced by the US ruling establishment in reaching out to Iran, part of the “axis of evil”.

But apart from subjective energy at work there were some objective factors emerging in the recent years that enabled both sides to overcome their traditional aversion towards each other. Theocracy of the Islamic Republic, still remains in full control in Iran, but the system was shaken to its core by the Green movement against the blatantly rigged presidential elections in 2009. The extreme repressive measures of the regime for decimating the opposing movement in terms of imprisoning, torturing and executing political opponents have considerably undermined the mass support base of the regime. Pain generated by the stringent financial and economic sanctions of the western powers that was reinforced by the isolationist policies of President Ahmadinejad was becoming unbearable by every passing day. The cumulative effect of these processes was increasing pressure on the Islamic Republic to adopt tangible measures for bringing sanctions and international isolation to an end. A promise to achieve this was an important promise in the election manifesto of reformist President Hassan Rouhani during the last presidential elections. Common Iranians welcomed the deal not just because it will provide them some relief by leading the lifting of sanctions but also in the hope that Iranian theocracy will lose the pretext for brutal repression in the name of “protecting the Islamic Republic”.

For the western powers, the dynamics of the ME politics have changed as the old settlement in the region is collapsing after western military intervention in Iraq and Libya and the subsequent fall out of Arab Spring. Extremist sectarian and other radical forces are threatening to tear apart existing states. Iran has emerged as an important factor to block the dramatic advance of forces like IS, although some circles accuse her of not only encouraging the sectarian divide but also nurturing expansionist designs. Israel and KSA are the staunch opponents of the Iran nuclear deal for their own reasons. Both are scared of the changing balance of forces and the consequences of a possible second wave of the Arab Spring. KSA and other Sheikdoms feel particularly threatened not only by the large scale uprise to overthrow the despotic and parasitical regimes in the region but also the exposure of Wahhabism and Salfism as the main sources of religious extremism and terrorism the world over. People around the world have found out the flow of Arab petrodollars behind the propagation of the aforementioned ideologies attracting universal abhorrence. KSA regards Iran to be a threat for its very existence and would not hesitate to forge alliance with any one against her. 

However it would be naive to presume two things. One that the Islamic Republic will go for “ perestroika “ (reconstruction) or “glasnost” (openness) , strategies adopted by Mikhail Gorbachev in the last days of the erstwhile Soviet Union. The Ayatollahs would do their utmost to maintain their grip on political power. It is particularly so as none of the stalwarts from the reformists (not even Sayed Muhammad Khatamy) have challenged the existence of the theocratic system. So far there is no mainstream political force in the field championing an alternative to the present system. Two, that Iran will soon team up with US led western powers in shaping the new settlement in the ME. The prolonged process of lifting the sanctions is not tantamount to normalizing of relations between the two sides. President Obama has clearly ruled that out. Even the Iranian side will proceed cautiously. They may over time, come to follow the Chinese model for promoting economic relations while maintaining political differences with the west. A comparatively moderate Iran focused on socio-economic development will definitely compete with Turkey for regional influence. It is not something new. In the 16th century, Persia had adopted Shi’ia Islam as state religion to distinguish herself from Sunni dominated Ottoman Empire. Turkey has already started cultivating the neighbouring Arab states to prepare for the future regional realignment. 

Pak-Iran economic relationship will flourish after the lifting of the western sanctions which is in the interest of both the countries. Pakistan’s decision to refrain from militarily joining the conflict in Yemen has opened bright prospects for Pak-Iran relations. There is a lot of potential for scaling up relations between the two countries, as there is not any significant outstanding issue between them. But Pakistan will have to demonstrate zero tolerance for the sectarian terrorists using her soil against Iran. That could be the only point of concern for Iran.

Be that as it may, Iran may proceed to implement its full potential as a national state after rejoining the international mainstream. Paras or Persia has been a state entity in different forms for the last 2500 years. It became Faras under Arabs and renamed itself Iran in mid 1930s. Henry Kissinger in his recent book “World Order” writes about Persia’s capacity to retain its distinct identity throughout the historical upheavals like China.

“Submerged in waves of conquest by Alexander the Great, the early Islamic Armies and later Mongols, shocks that all but erased the historical memory and political autonomy of other people, Persia retained its confidence in its cultural superiority. It bowed to its conquerors as a temporary concession but retained its independence through its worldview, charting “great interior spaces” in poetry and mysticism and revering its connection with the heroic ancient rulers recounted in its epic “Book of Kings”.