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Don’t fall for the Iran nuclear deal brouhaha

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The enthusiasm seen from various sides about the nuclear agreement with Iran is a stark reminder of the eagerness boasted of before the Yongbyon agreed framework in 1994 where almost precisely the same pledges were made about North Korea’s nuclear program. Before getting too delighted or anxious, one has to take a deep look at all the aspects of this deal in its consequences and requirements. Even officials in Iran realize this is just the first step in a long road ahead, and major political, economic and social dilemmas have mined the path before the regime and those seeking to take full advantage of the appeasement policy adopted by the West vis-à-vis Tehran.

There are a number of fundamental problems with the Iran agreement. One goes by the line of the saying that intelligence must never be mistaken for intelligence. We have learned that time and again the international community is surprised and caught off guard about nuclear developments, wherever they may be. One reminder is the nuclear arms race in South Asia between India and Pakistan. Another harsh fact was the mocking of former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton when he suggested the North Koreans were embarking on a uranium enrichment facility, confirmed several years later by a professor at Los Alamos.

Therefore, people should actually be very muted in their confidence that Iran has completely dismantled not only the side of their program that the international community has seen and been uncovered, but also aspects that the world might not know about.

Another problem about this deal is even with the Iranians fortunately releasing their hostages, they have taken the biggest hostage of all, being the nuclear deal itself. Iran test fired two ballistic missiles in blatant violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions. The Obama administration said it has taken steps to sanction Iran for the test. However, the Iranians threatened to consider such a move as a violation of the deal, leading to the Obama administration quietly backing off from the new sanctions. Iran is going to use the threat of what many call nuclear snapback to constantly threaten the West: if you sanction us for our behavior, the deal is off.

There are also claims of this nuclear deal rendering a new and different Iran. It is premature to make such remarks as this deal wasn’t by simply geopolitics, but in fact due to sheer economic and domestic matters that have turned the Iranian society into a powder keg. The combination of sanctions, unprecedented drop in oil prices and the billions of dollars they are pumping into Syria and its campaign in Yemen forced the ayatollahs to take this decision.

This is exactly why some folks like former U.S. secretary of state Henry Kissinger are concerned that a year from now when the sanctions are removed and western businesses are back in Iran, along with a possibility of oil prices increasing to some extent, are the Iranians going to continue to abide by the deal?

The Iranian people are overwhelmingly seeking change and the international community should not underestimate their will for change, as the will of the Iranian regime to crush any sign of change should also not be underestimated. For the supreme leader and forces like the Revolutionary Guards in fact economic integration and rapprochement pose more of an existential threat to them then continued isolation. What we have seen in Iran since the 1979 revolution has been several moments of naïve expectation followed by years of grave disillusionment. At the moment some may claim there is great expectation in Tehran. However, the pattern seen is not very optimistic.

To those who actually consider Iran a democracy in a region where many states are ruled by monarchial-like systems, what is witnessed in Iran is actually stage-managed politics. There are elections around the corner next month yet the candidates are already selected by the ruling system in advance. This is not the real politics seen in other parts of the world. Even on the nuclear deal the supreme leader ultimately had to provide his consent, and in fact he renegotiated a part of the deal in the process. Therefore, in Iran we actually have an illusion of participatory politics, but there is no reality of pure, democratic-style politics.

Regarding the cries of a windfall of billions of dollars pouring into Iran and boosting this regime, there should be clear explanations provided in this regard. While Iran will most definitely use this influx of money to beef up its support for Bashar Assad and proxy groups across the Middle East in order to upgrade its meddling and terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism campaign, the price of oil is now around $30 dollars a barrel while Iran needs $145 oil barrel prices to balance its budget.

At the same time, Iran probably has the largest population in the world still isolated from the global economy. While there may be huge interest in Iran from Asia and the West, there are signs seen in this country telling Western business that the regime ruling Iran is nowhere near changing, making investment a major risk for all businesses. To step up its oil production, being the lifeline of its economy, Iran has an investment requirement sitting at around $100-$500 billion over the next five years alone. No such money is promised to Tehran by anyone.

This is all a serious wake-up call for anyone claiming all is cozy with Iran and the international community can begin warming relations. The road ahead is bumpy and dangerous for the ayatollahs sitting on the throne in Tehran.

Follow Amir on @amir_bas

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