Winners and losers in Iran’s nuclear deal
The political balance sheet from Sunday’s nuclear deal between Iran and world powers.
DIPLOMACY: A 15-minute phone call in late September between U.S. President Barack Obama and Iran’s new president, Hassan Rouhani, did more than break the diplomatic ice that had accumulated over 34 years. It became a rallying cry for those urging to revive stalled nuclear talks and test the “new era” claims of the moderate-leaning Rouhani after his election in June. The U.N.’s annual General Assembly also had a shining moment as the backdrop for the outreach that led to the latest round of talks in Geneva.
ASIAN OIL CUSTOMERS: Sanctions on Iran’s oil exports will remain in place during the six-month period covered by the deal, but world powers promise no new economic measures against Tehran as long as compliance moves ahead. This is good news for energy-hungry Asian economies such as India, China and Japan, which have received U.S. waivers to continue Iranian oil imports. The waivers are likely to remain and the prospect of further talks — if the first-step provisions go smoothly — could begin to peel back the wider restrictions on oil sales.
DUBAI: Long before the Gulf city-state was a symbol of gilded excess, it prospered as a commercial crossroads with places such as Iran. Its ports and air cargo terminals were once brimming with Iran-bound goods. Sanctions have sharply cut into the traditional trade and livelihood of many in the large Iranian expatriate community in Dubai. Anything that brings back Iranian business, even in limited steps, is welcome in Dubai. A statement from the United Arab Emirates said the deal “represents a step toward a permanent solution that preserves the stability of the region and protects it against nuclear proliferation concerns and risks.”
IRAN’S PRESIDENT: Rouhani often pitched the nuclear talks as a potential for a “win-win” outcome with the West. On one level, he got his take by securing a deal that allows Iran to maintain uranium enrichment — although at lower levels. His hard-line opponents would have pounced on anything that could have sacrificed Iran’s nuclear self-sufficiency. It was likely Rouhani could have gone that route in any event. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said giving up enrichment was a “red line” in the talks.
ISRAEL: The message came quickly and loudly from Jerusalem: The deal is a mistake and puts Israel in greater peril. Many Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, see Iran’s ability to enrich uranium as a recipe for potential disaster. Enrichment produces nuclear fuel for reactors but can also make weapons-grade material. No amount of persuasion from Israel’s American allies could shake Netanyahu and others from the belief that Iran is a threat as long as it can enrich uranium. Netanyahu must now try to mend relations with Washington and weigh the significant risks of turning his back on the West and considering possible unilateral military options.
SAUDI ARABIA: The oil-rich kingdom has to adjust to an unfamiliar role as opponents, rather than confidants, of Washington. First, Saudi leaders were dismayed when the U.S. abandoned longtime ally ex-Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to the fate of the Arab Spring uprising in 2011. Then Saudi authorities were angered by the U.S. decision to pull back from possible military strikes on the forces of Syrian President Bashar Assad — attacks that could have helped the rebel forces closely aided by Riyadh and other Gulf states. Saudi Arabia now sees the Iran deal as favoring its regional rival and diminishing the Gulf role in U.S. policy-shaping. It’s unlikely, though, to stop the major Saudi military purchases from American defense contractors.
EGYPT: The military-backed leaders in Cairo have rolled back much of the Iran outreach by the Muslim Brotherhood-led government ousted in July. The nuclear deal and the possibility of expanding U.S.-Iran dialogue could cut into Egypt’s traditional standing as the guiding force in shaping Western policy in the region.