Stakes are high

The interim nuclear deal is being implemented. The ball is now in Iran’s court.

Published: January 22, 2014 11:34 pm

The interim nuclear deal is being implemented. The ball is now in Iran’s court.

The interim nuclear deal hammered out in Geneva by Iran and the P5+1 last November came into effect on January 20. Under the deal, Iran has begun curbing uranium enrichment, suspending its most sensitive nuclear development work and placing its nuclear sector under unprecedented international scrutiny. In response, the US and EU have lifted some of the sanctions crippling Iran’s oil-driven economy. Tehran can resume export of petrochemicals now and receive $4.2 billion of its frozen oil assets. But most of the sanctions — imposed since 2006 — will stay in place for the six months of the interim deal. The ball is now in Tehran’s court, if it wants to see a permanent solution to the nuclear problem.

The interim deal is aimed at ending Iran’s nuclear confrontation with the international community, strengthening the non-proliferation regime in the Middle East and improving relations between Tehran and Washington. For a negotiation process deadlocked for 11 years, a breakthrough wouldn’t have come without substantial risk-taking. As such, it faces several challenges. Behind US President Barack Obama, there is a combative US Congress waiting with more sanctions. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani will be closely tailed by the hardliners, whose interests were served by the sanctions. Rouhani will also be held responsible by the people for the economy’s performance. Iran’s neighbours, especially Israel and Saudi Arabia, are unlikely to let up pressure on what they see as a licence to Tehran to develop nuclear weapons.

Having come this far, Tehran must know the price of reneging on its commitments. Not only will the sanctions return, but Iran will not get this opportunity to reintegrate itself into the community of nations in a long time. In turn, the P5+1 must remember that, should Tehran renege, it could enrich uranium sufficiently to produce a nuclear weapon within weeks. New Delhi, having welcomed the deal, should make every effort to scale up its Middle Eastern engagement — as both a precautionary step in a region that may now change dramatically, as well as to profit from it. India has a lot at stake, even as it benefits from the eased import of Iranian crude.

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