After twenty long months of negotiation, a deal with Iran over its nuclear program was finalized just this week in Vienna, Austria. Representatives from China, France, Russia, the United States and Germany were present during the talks. These countries, excluding Germany are referred to as the P5, or the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council. Since 2002, numerous attempts have been made to negotiate and hinder Iran’s nuclear program, but have proved unsuccessful. In 2013, however, the Obama government was able to open the doors to negotiation, holding several secret meetings in Oman with the Iranian government. The Obama administration has slowly paved the way for cooperation between the two nations. Further, Iran’s newly elected President, Hasan Rouhani, is dedicated to ending Iranian sanctions and is welcome to international discussion.
The intent of these negotiations was ultimately to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. The deal allowed Iran to enrich uranium, taking into account the fact that destroying the huge nuclear plants would be highly unrealistic and almost impossible. However, the deal also concluded that Iran’s nuclear capability would be extremely limited and subject to strict and constant monitoring. On the other hand, the deal lifts economic and military sanctions that have crippled the country for decades. As a result of the agreement, Iran will be granted access to frozen overseas accounts, worth over $150 billion. In addition, Iran’s weapons embargo was slashed, allowing the country to export arms and ballistic missiles.
However, the deal faces harsh critics, especially from Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, who argues the deal as a “historic mistake” in one of his tweets. Further, he believes that the money Iran will receive from its overseas accounts will be used to fund terrorist groups including Hezbollah. Netanyahu is anxious over the deal, because the United States is a key ally of Israel. The Republicans in the United States Congress are also expected to oppose the agreement, many of whom are influenced by Netanyahu’s words.
Iran has faced economic and political sanctions for many decades, even before nuclear rearmament was suspected. In 1979, then President Jimmy Carter froze all Iranian assets and embargoed Iranian oil during the hostage crisis of 1979-1981, when Iranian students held American embassy workers hostage for over one year in Tehran. The United States classified Iran as a state sponsor of terrorism, when militant group Hezbollah, supported and funded by Iran, was accused of bombing a United States marine base in Lebanon. Sanctions and isolation from the international bank system has caused a collapse in the Iranian economy. Initially they were intended to destroy the ruling elite, yet the effect has been quite the opposite, instead wounding the civilian population. Similar to the United States, individuals must pay out of pocket to utilize the healthcare system, but unlike America, over forty percent of Iranians live in poverty. This means that close to half of the entire population is unable to receive the lifesaving treatments and medication they need to survive. Sanctions have limited the supply of medical equipment and medicines, increasing the cost severely. High inflation rates have also led to extremely high food prices especially in basic goods such as vegetables and milk. Families are thus forced to spend less on necessities, leading to malnutrition, particularly in children and the elderly. Higher education has also taken a toll. Iran’s isolation has prevented students in universities from gaining access to international journals or participating in foreign exchange programs. This is severely limiting the opportunities for thousands of Iranians. By imposing these sanctions, Americans believed that Iranians would revolt against its government and opt for change. Yet in a sense, this has had the opposite effect in that the Iranian regime feels more secure than less, because sanctions make the public too weak to challenge the government. Further, these sanctions build resentment against nations like the United States that have imposed them. Although sanctions were put in place as a punishment for Iran’s violation of nuclear rearmament, the action is never justified when it hurts civilians.
It is the hope that the Iran deal will be fulfilled on all sides. With the ending of crippling sanctions, some analysts predict that Iran’s economy may rise by almost eight percent in the next two years, putting the country on par with economic giants like China and India. Although the deal faces much criticism and skepticism, it is up to world leaders to learn to cooperate for the greater good. The deal will allow thousands of Iranians to participate in the global market and finally have a chance to rebuild their lives.