American Iranian Council director: Nuclear deal is a model for diplomacy

Politics - After 22 months of negotiations on July 14 Iran and the 5+1 group agreed on comprehensive deal on Iran’s nuclear program. The deal was immediately described as historic and evoked a wave of reactions from international figures.

Emad Kiyaei, executive director of American Iranian Council and researcher at Princeton University says that the implementation phase still faces a skeptical US Congress, deep mistrust between US and Iranian governments, regional opponents and other thorny issues.

Tehran Times talked to Kiyaei, and answered to some key questions about the historical deal between Iran and P5+1. Following is the text of interview:


​ What is your impressions of the latest UNSC vote to endorse the nuclear agreement?


The 15 members of the Security Council in New York unanimously adopted a resolution on Monday approving the comprehensive nuclear deal agreed last week in Vienna between P5+1 and Iran. This is a resounding vote for peace over war. This ushers in a new chapter in Iran’s relationship with the international community and brings a peaceful resolution to over a decade of tensions over Iran’s nuclear program. It is also a shift away from coercion and pressure toward diplomacy and peacefully means to address differences. The endorsement of the deal will also accelerate the lifting of nuclear-related sanctions—which have caused tremendous economic pressure on the Iranian people. Finally, the resolution opens the oath for Iran and the international community to address pressing security and stability matters in the Middle East.


Why has the nuclear deal labeled as a historical one?

The deal is historic for three major reasons:

A: Diplomacy has triumphed over coercion and war.

Concludes over 12 years of international concern over Iran's nuclear file--particularly since proliferation of nuclear weapons is one of the most serious threats to international peace and security. The deal provides assurances to the international community that Iran's nuclear program is and will be peaceful through the implementation of the most comprehensive and intrusive inspections, verification and monitoring measures.

B: Strengthening nonproliferation regime for Iran, region and beyond.

The measures Iran agreed in the deal, create the strongest nonproliferation regime to date. This will have major implications for nonproliferation and the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) for not just Iran, but the region and globally.


C: This deal open the door to cooperation on other pressing regional issues.

By resolving the nuclear issue, Iran and the world powers (and international community) can work collectively and constructively on addressing more pressing issues in the Middle East, such as fight against Daesh, security and stability in Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan and Syria.


The major concern for the Iranians at the moment is the lifting of sanctions. How long will it take for Iranian economy to improve?

Multiple sanctions--unilateral and multilateral--will take few months to be lifted, once Iran fulfills its commitments under the nuclear deal. Sanctions are only one factor for the dismal economic condition in Iran. Other factors include mismanagement, cronyism, nepotism, corruption and short-sighted fiscal and monetary policies. Therefore there needs to be a holistic approach to improve the economic conditions in Iran.


There are three sets of sanctions: UN Security Council Resolutions, European Union and US sanctions--each will have different obstacles and timeline for removal. For sanctions to be lifted Iran first has to fulfill its commitments under the deal--this requires reconfiguration of Arak reactor, removal of excess enriched uranium stockpile, diluting highly enriched uranium, addressing concerns of the IAEA (possible military dimension issues), dismantling a large number of centrifuges at Natanz and Fordo. These steps will take time, approximately 3-4 months. Then, once the IAEA gives Iran a clean bill of health, the nuclear-related UNSC and EU sanctions will be lifted. It is also very likely that nuclear-related US sanctions will follow.


To what extend will the US Congress place obstacles for this deal?


While some US Congress members, majority Republicans, oppose the nuclear deal and will have 60-days to review its content, it is unlikely that it will get enough support to derail the process. If, in the unlikely circumstance that it does, President Obama has stated that he will use his veto powers. Therefore, I do not see the Congress as a deciding factor for the deal to be implemented.


Does the nuclear deal serve as a step towards normalization of US-Iran relations? Or is it the case that it is too early to discuss such matter?


The nuclear deal is a step towards the right direction, but the US-Iran relations have been marred since 1979--many issues still remain between the two countries and it cannot be resolved overnight. However, the fact that US and Iran, at an official and high-level, are engaging directly is a major accomplishment for moving towards ending decades of mistrust, misunderstanding and animosity.


What is your assessment of the regional implications of the agreement (in particular, Iran's neighboring countries)?

This deal is a major win for regional stability and security as it removes a major blockage for Iran to engage more constructively with challenges facing the region with detente with neighbors.

The most important implication of this deal in my opinion is the impact on the region. Thus far, Iran has been excluded from paying a constructive role in resolving regional challenges through cooperation with the international community. This nuclear deal, will open the door to engaging Iran on finding avenues to address regional challenges such as defeating extremism, terrorism and insecurity in the region.


While some neighboring countries such as Saudi Arabia do not welcome the deal (as they see it as a threat to regional balance of power, US disengagement with the region and empowering Iran to further dominate the region at the expense of their national security), they are left with no other choice but to accelerate diplomatic efforts to resolve their differences with Tehran.


What is your prediction for the future?

I am optimistic for the future. The nuclear deal is a model for how diplomacy can overcome a challenging and complex dispute. This is the beginning of a long journey for Iran and the region to favor diplomacy over war, find mechanisms to bridge their differences and address concerns that are central to all their national security and interest.

Iran, as a major regional power, should be proactive in advocating for a regional security and cooperation mechanism too collectively with other major countries (in region and beyond) to tackle the root causes of the chaos in the Middle East. The root causes of extremism, terrorism and failing states are the misguided and short-sighted polices that exacerbate economic and social inequalities. Stability and security in the Middle East will unleash the true potential of the region's young and talented youth to carve a more bright future. The demilitarization of the region will allow for the reallocation of financial and human resources towards socioeconomic and political reform.

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