In the charged atmosphere between the United States and Iran, the benefits of the deal with Iran have been obscured by a war rhetoric that does very little for peace and development in that conflictive region. To the calls for bombing Iran from the likes of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. Sen. John McCain, a significant number of experts in the region believe that peace with Iran will benefit not only that country but the U.S. and the rest of world as well.
Two U.S. experts on Iran, Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett, have recently argued that the U.S. cannot achieve its foreign policy goals in the Middle East — combating the Islamic State, preventing another violent takeover in Afghanistan and resolving the conflicts in Syria and Yemen without having better ties with Iran.
The deal with Iran also guarantees that Iran’s nuclear capacity will be used only for peaceful purposes, and will give the international community enough time to detect any breach in the agreement. It would also guarantee that Iran will continue its cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA,) the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog.
While the U.S. and the European Union have been at odds with the Iranian leaders, both China and Russia are intent on developing stronger ties with that country through economic and strategic cooperation deals. Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin have plans to visit Iran this spring to strengthen those ties.
Experts on Iran have stressed that a peaceful relation of the West with Iran would allow Western powers not only special access to Iran’s nuclear program but would permit them to draw an accurate picture of it. More significantly, it would also reduce the chances of an Israeli or U.S. strike on Iranian nuclear facilities.
Hardliners, both in the U.S. Congress and in the Israeli government, take Iran’s supreme leader’s threats to annihilate Israel very seriously. However, they employ the very same rhetoric against Iran. These threats, rather than diffusing the conflict, have only contributed to its escalation.
Iran’s youth population (one of the youngest populations of any large country in the world) looks to the West, and hopes that better relations will improve the quality of their lives. Better economic relations will accelerate the European countries economic recovery and will improve Iran’s economic development as well.
A deal with Iran will also improve the U.S. economy by re-establishing normal trade relations. Suspension of trade has so far has caused billions of dollars in losses for both countries. From 1995 to 2012, the U.S. lost between $135 and $175 billion in potential exports revenue to Iran, according to the National Iranian American Council. This translates into more than 60,000 lost job opportunities for Americans.
Iran can contribute to the stability in the region. It has played an important role in convincing Syria to destroy its chemical weapons, and is collaborating with the West in the fight against the Islamic State. Iran could also cooperate with the U.S. in combating the drug traffic in Afghanistan and Pakistan, which has become a source of serious concern for Iran.
U.S. legislators and neoconservative elements in the U.S. oppose any deal with Iran. Failure to reach a long-lasting agreement will also strengthen the hardliners within Iran’s military, which will hinder Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani for pursuing necessary reforms in other critical areas.
Although it is very easy to demonize Iran’s leaders, a more nuanced and historical analysis shows that foreign intervention in that country has destroyed the country’s democracy and hindered its development. Thus, rather than demonizing Iran’s leaders, the Western powers could take advantage of the country’s status to improve peace prospects in the region.
Cesar Chelala is winner of an Overseas Press Club of America award.
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