Iran’s dreams come true, but will promises be kept?
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh/Al Arabiya/January 17/16
Iranian leaders have long been yearning for this implementation day. The country’s dream, the lifting of economic sanctions, appears to have come true after almost 20 years. According to the terms of the nuclear agreement, which was reached in July between Iran and the P5+1 group – Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States plus Germany – the implementation means several things. On the one hand it means that:
1. Tehran will get major relief from sanctions imposed by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) as well as unilateral Western sanctions.
2. Iran will receive roughly $90 billion as European countries lift sanctions on major industries such as gold and metal.
3. The U.S. will remove major Iranian entities and individuals from the sanctions list.
4. More fundamentally, Tehran will re-enter the international banking and financial system and sell oil on the global market as the related sanctions will also be lifted.
On the other hand, it demonstrates that:
1. Iran has significantly decreased its installed centrifuges form 19,000 to 7,000 keeping the rest in monitored storage.
2. Tehran has reduced enriched uranium stocks from over 10,000 kilograms to roughly 500kg.
3. Iran is a year away from building an atomic bomb.
4. The core of the Arak heavy water reactor – where plutonium was being produced – has been filled with cement.
5. Iranian scientists have limited their research and development on some aspects of nuclear developments including advanced centrifuges and will continue to limit for the next 10 years.
Will Iran continue to comply with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) regulations? Will the extra cash, coming out of sanctions relief, trickle down to the Iranian people?
This is a big day for Iranian people as they are celebrating the lifting of sanctions and more fundamentally, the improvement of ties between Washington and Tehran. “The lifting of sanctions is the best political news I have heard in the last three decades,” Haleh, a 49-year-old university professor in Shiraz pointed out. However, unfortunately, Iranian people are less likely to see the economic and political fruits of sanction relief anytime soon. The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) will continue its crack down on any opposition, suppress freedom of speech, expression and press. In addition, most of the financial gains are going to go towards IRGC and Quds Forces because they have monopoly over Iran’s politico-economic establishments.
Will the extra cash, coming out of sanctions relief, trickle down to the Iranian people?
The major loophole is that there exists no adequate UNSC mechanism to roll back sanctions, if Iran chooses to resume its nuclear proliferation. Considering the geopolitical rivalry between the West, Russia and China, getting Moscow and Beijing back on board is not going to be easy.
The U.S. and European countries will have no financial incentive to push for snapping back sanctions, if Iran heads towards building a nuclear bomb. This is due to the fact that the European firms will be investing in the largest untapped emerging market in the world (representing over $1 trillion of value) and American firms will be operating in Iran, using subsidiaries or getting waivers from the U.S. Department of Treasury. More than 190 waivers have already been granted in the U.S. Moreover, the one-year breakout time will not be realistically adequate to react even if the international community caught Iran cheating. Finally, after 10 years, Iran will be allowed to enrich uranium or spin centrifuges at any level that it desires, and the embargo on Iran’s ballistic missile will be lifted. The other question is how will the IAEA inspect all nuclear facilities and verify Iran’s compliance? It is still questionable how the IAEA was capable of inspecting all nuclear facilities in Iran, approve all the aforementioned conditions, and green-light the Islamic Republic’s compliance and intentions in only five months.
Tactical foreign policy shift?
Will lifting of sanctions alter the Islamic Republic’s foreign policy, as President Obama has suggested?
If one examines meticulously, all signs suggest that the fundamental pillar of Iran’s foreign policy will remain intact. Even before the nuclear issue, Tehran held the same hegemonic ambitions and pursuit for regional pre-eminence. Iran’s reliance on application of hard power in the region will escalate.
Now, with more dollars in the IRGC treasury and with West leaning towards Tehran, the Islamic Republic will continue – and will be more empowered – to support Assad, the ruling Shiite politicians in Iraq, Hezbollah, the Houthis, and other Shiite proxies. Diplomacy, tactical and strategic cooperation between Iran and the West will continue to improve. Bilateral trade will increase. However, Iran’s reliance on soft power and diplomacy in the region is worsening. The implementation of this agreement is definitely a day of joy for Iranian leaders (hardliners and moderates) as well as the P5+1. The major question is whether this will mark the beginning of an imminent regional war if Tehran does not alter its policies in the region. It will be more critical to focus on the long-term impact going forward.
Educating Europe’s refugees as important as feeding them
Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya/January 17/16
More than a million refugees have arrived in Europe from around the world, who may be deemed as easy prey for extremist groups. These groups reached Europe before the influx of refugees and they enjoy greater freedom of expression. They are also more engaged in social activities. The more recent refugees, on the other hand, went to Europe in search of a new life. Yet, many of them may end up becoming the target of extremists looking to expand their presence. They are intent on producing terrorists and spreading an extremist ideology that turns these refugees into opponents of the very society they live in. Ever since Syrians started fleeing their war-ravaged country in large numbers, they headed to Europe via Turkey. This marked the beginning of a new phase in the crisis, which will probably continue even if the Syrian conflict is resolved. A million refugees, most of whom Syrians, is not a big number in a continent inhabited by around 300 million people. The number is also not a complication for Germany, the biggest refugee hosting country, as its huge economy can sustain them. But the challenge posed by these refugees is bigger on intellectual, social and security fronts.
What is as important is educating them so that they integrate with society easily and confront attempts by extremists to radicalize them.
There are real threats facing these refugees who are victims of the repulsive war which has unjustly displaced more than 10 million Syrian people and a few million Iraqis. The refugees in Europe are vulnerable to exploitation and to being used in this game which is getting more complicated and dangerous. There are powers fighting over them in Europe such as those who oppose refugees, parties protesting over unemployment and groups supporting Syrian and Iranian regimes. Of course the most dangerous are extremists and people cooperating with terrorist groups such as ISIS and al-Nusra Front.
Challenge of radicalization
It will be in the interest of German and European authorities in general to preemptively address this problem by not letting these refugees fall prey to extremists who influence them under the pretext of humanitarian support. These refugees must be intellectually equipped to live with dignity and co-exist in the new society which has hosted them; a society which respects their rights and beliefs and expects the same from refugees. European governments and people are currently focused on helping these refugees. They are being provided food and housing while their papers are processed. However, what is as important is educating them so that they integrate with society easily and confront attempts by extremists to radicalize them. Governments can do nothing but threaten to expel anyone who is proved to be engaging in extremist activities, as has been seen in Germany. This approach only addresses a small percentage of the 1 million refugees. The biggest challenge is to intellectually strengthen the majority from attempts being made by extremists to turn refugees from being thankful to hateful and into extremists who reject their new society and clash with it.
I am confident that it is possible to spread the culture of co-existence and tolerance, which can be derived from the refugees’ Muslim and Middle Eastern culture that has collapsed in the last three decades due to extremist and hateful ideologies and ongoing wars.