Winners and losers of nuclear deal

Deal reached in Geneva between Iran, western powers left certain sides satisfied, others less. As Iran, US are triumphant, Israel, Saudi Arabia come up short. How does deal affect Israel's Mideast neighbors? Political balance sheet

The historic deal that was struck late Saturday night between Iran and the international community was received with much joy in Tehran, great satisfaction among the biggest world powers and with great disappointment among several Middle Eastern countries.


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Following are details of the political balance sheet from the nuclear deal.


  • The winners



Tehran is celebrating the accord, as the international community has imposed four rounds of economic sanctions on Iran due to its nuclear program in recent years, which has substantially deteriorated the Iranian economy. The Geneva talks and eventual signing of the historic deal pulled the Islamic Republic out of its isolation and allowed it to gasp for air, at least for the next six months prior to signing a permanent deal.


As part of the agreement, Iran received sanctions relief in several fields, including metals, vehicle-aircraft parts and refined oil products (estimated at $7 billion). Most importantly, it was agreed no further sanctions will be imposed on Iran, despite Israeli requests.


Additional achievements for the Iranians: They can continue to enrich uranium, though not beyond 5%, and keep their centrifuges. However, Tehran will have a harder time to conceal its nuclear activity, as it committed as part of the agreement to allow increased supervision of its nuclear sites.


Iran's President

Iranian President Hassan Rohani 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 that Rohani could have gone that route in any event. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said giving up enrichment was a "red line" in the talks.


Rouhani delivers a speech on the nuclear deal (Photo: AP) (Photo: AP)
Rouhani delivers a speech on the nuclear deal (Photo: AP)



A 15-minute phone call in late September between US President Barack Obama and Rohani 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 Rohani after his election in June. The UN General Assembly also had a shining moment as the backdrop for the outreach that led to the latest round of talks in Geneva.



Obama received a lot of criticism after he declined to attack Syria and preferred to join forces with the Russians in an agreement that dismantled Syria's chemical warfare arsenal. On the Iran issue, Obama also preferred to choose the diplomatic option over the military one, and for that, he brought out all the "big guns" in his administration in order to reach his target – a nuclear deal with Iran.



Diplomats in Washington are satisfied with the deal struck in Geneva because it stops the Iranian nuclear plan, and makes the Iranians obligated to let International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) agents monitor the nuclear sites more frequently. In 2009, just months after he stepped into office, Obama received the Nobel Peace Prize, before he had achieved any significant peace deals. True to today, he now has two significant accords in hand – one with Syria and the other with Iran. He has earned praises from the international community, but has also been fairly criticized, specifically from Israel and the Gulf nations.


Kerry, Ashton en route to London following deal (Photo: AP)
Kerry, Ashton en route to London following deal (Photo: AP)


To be fair, the credit for the Iranian deal does not just go to Obama. It is shared by other senior American diplomats, such as Secretary of State John Kerry, who travelled across continents in order to achieve the deal. Next to Kerry is Under Secretary for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman, who was the head of the American delegation in the Geneva talks.



In 2012, the EU received the Nobel Peace Prize for six decades of "advancing peace, reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe." Saturday night, the bloc of nations justified its earning of the precious prize when it signed the accord with Iran and the world powers without firing a single bullet. High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton spent the last few months in long debates and discussions with the Iranian representatives, including Mohammad Javad Zarif, the foreign minister. During all the talks, Ashton supported a diplomatic solution, and for the time being, it looks as if she has the upper hand in the negotiations, and with a permanent deal ready to be signed that will further Iran from its nuclear ambitions.



Like in Syria's case, Moscow refused to put additional sanctions on Iran, and called for negotiations in order to find a diplomatic solution. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Sunday morning that in the deal that was achieved in Geneva, there are no losers, only winners. But the diplomat that thinks he's the real winner is President Vladimir Putin.


Putin, not for the first time, took the military option off the table, and wasn't terribly impressed with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's pressure when he visited last week. "We must reach an agreement with Iran as soon as possible," Putin said in his meeting with Netanyahu. "We are optimistic about the talks in Geneva."


The optimism paid off in the form of a deal. Lavrov was one of the key architects in the deal. He, like Kerry, accumulated thousands of travel miles, met with the Iranian and Western representatives, and at the end of day helped achieve the deal and strengthened Russia's status in the Middle East.


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 US 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.



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."


  • The losers



What didn't Netanyahu try to stop Iran's nuclear plan? He brought to the UN the plans to build the Auschwitz death camp. He brought a cartoon of a bomb detailing Tehran's atomic weapon progress and drew on the bomb a red line, which showed just how dangerous a nuclear Iran can be.


Netanyahu and his administration's campaign led Israel into a public debate with the US and Obama. Netanyahu demanded from the world powers to enforce more sanctions on Iran in order to suppress it. He said any deal made with Iran wouldn't be applicable to Israel, and that Israel would remain with the right to self-defense. The deal that was signed in Geneva didn't lead to an interruption in Iran's uranium enrichment or get rid of the centrifuges or heavy water reactor. And if that wasn't enough, there won't be additional sanctions enforced on Iran.


"What was agreed upon in Geneva isn't an historic agreement, it's an historic mistake. Today, the world has become a much more dangerous place because the most dangerous regime in the world has taken a significant step in obtaining the most dangerous weaponry in the world," Netanyahu said. Even with the loss, the prime minister can count some minor victories, including an increase in IAEA monitoring.


Photo: AFP
Photo: AFP



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 US-Iran dialogue could cut into Egypt's traditional standing as the guiding force in shaping Western policy in the region.


Saudi Arabia, Gulf Nations

Even though Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf nations don't have diplomatic ties with Israel, the common worry of Iran's influence and ambitions brought them (according to foreign publications) to secret communications and warm relations on the topics related to defense and strategic interests.


The Geneva deal is considered bad news for Saudi Arabia and its neighboring Sunni countries, and Saudi Arabia has already warned that it won't stand on the sidelines as long as the Iran nuclear program isn't stopped, a clue that Saudi Arabia might try for itself to obtain nuclear armaments.


Saudi Arabia, which generally dictates the terms for the rest of the Gulf countries, called on the US to raise its tone against Tehran, and it sees in Iran a dangerous neighbor, attacking it for its supposed support in the Arab Spring. After the deal was signed, voices of warning came out of Saudi Arabia, which said Iran may give up on certain things by signing, but is getting for it something in return. One thing is for certain, the agreement will bother the Saudis, which believe anyway that Iran is involved in Saudi Arabia's politics.


The only Saudi representative who agreed to talk since the signing was relatively low-ranking, Abdullah al-Askar, chairman of the foreign affairs committee in Saudi Arabia's appointed Shoura Council, a quasi-parliament that advises the government on policy. "I don't have an official government response, but personally I'm worried," he said. "I'm worried that Iran is giving up something in order to get something else in the regional-political field. I'm worried about giving Iran more space or a free hand to operate in the region. The Iranian government has proved that it has a condemned agenda. No one in the region thinks things will be handled smoothly."


Al-Askar also threatened the world powers. If the agreement will let Iran make a nuclear bomb, it will spark a race in the region, he said. "I believe that Egypt, Turkey and Saudi Arabia, and maybe even the UAE, will take steps in order to obtain the technology."


The politician didn't express a strange opinion in regards to Saudi Arabia's official publications. Last week, before the signing in Geneva, the ambassador in Britain Mohammed bin Nawwaf bin Abdulaziz said his country won't sit with crossed arms in front of an Iranian nuclear threat. In an interview with the British Times, he said, "All options are open for Saudi Arabia in order to stop the danger of Iran's nuclear plan." Similar statements, however, were not heard after the signing.


Saudi Arabia and Iran have been ideological and geopolitical foes for many years. Saudi Arabia is considered the crib of the Sunni faction of Islam, and Iran is the cradle of Shi'a Islam. Both are considered the leaders of their respective factions in the Muslim world, and are both trying to achieve regional hegemony. More than once has Saudi Arabia blamed Iran in attempts to start revolutions in Saudi Arabia's allies, such as Bahrain, or to start a Shi'a revolution in Saudi Arabia itself. Iran, on its part, has a large influence on its neighbor Iraq, which has a Shi'a majority. Saudi Arabia is worried that a nuclear Iran will act more freely in the Middle East and will try to take power over areas that Saudi Arabia considers under its rule.


The United Arab Emirates said in an announcement that the "Cabinet hopes that the deal will be a step towards a permanent deal that will preserve the stability in the region and will protect against the tensions and dangers of nuclear proliferation."


Another concerned neighbor of Iran is Jordan. The former Jordanian publicity minister, Salah al-Klab, talked about John Kerry's statement in an al-Arabiya interview where he said the deal would bring security to Israel. "The deal may bring security to Israel, but not to Arab states or the Gulf nations, of which Iran is threatening," the former minister said mockingly.


  • Mideast responds



In the Hezbollah camp, there have already been satisfied voices from the accord, and last week leader Hassan Nasrallah said that both Iran and his own organization come out of the negotiations strengthened.

A member of the March 8 Alliance (identified with Hezbollah) said the deal is a loss for the March 14 Alliance (coalition opposed to Hezbollah and the Syrian regime). The deal forces a new reality on the world. Decision-making in the world doesn't just belong to the US.


Nasrallah speaks last week (Photo: EPA)
Nasrallah speaks last week (Photo: EPA)


A member of parliament who supports Hezbollah added: "This is the first time that the US didn't force a deal for the good of Israel at the expense of the nations of the region." Another politician said that the world should pay attention to Israel's nuclear plan.



The Syrian foreign ministry was quick to publish a congratulatory announcement about the "historic" agreement. The announcement said the outline guarantees the interests of the Iranian nation and recognizes its right to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. "The agreement paves the way for an international effort to demilitarize the Middle East from weapons of mass destruction, specifically after Syria joined the convention for the prevention of chemical warfare proliferation."


The announcement also said, referring to Israel, that the only obstacle remaining in order to achieve this effort is the single country that has nuclear weapons and has refused to put its facilities under the supervision of the international agency for atomic energy.


The Syrian publicity minister, Amran a-Zoabi, joined the celebrations and said in a television interview that the deal was a victory for the dialogue over the threats and sanctions. "Israel's position isn't surprising because its common-sense is to attack," he said. "There are countries that are harmed from the agreement, Israel and Saudi Arabia. Their statements establish the fear and anxiety that they have in regards to the deal. This shows the level of coordination between Israel and Saudi Arabia in Iraq and in Syria." As a close ally of Iran, Syria is a stiff opponent of Saudi Arabia, specifically against the background of Saudi support of the Sunni rebels fighting Bashar Assad's regime for the past two and a half years.


The Palestinian Authority, meanwhile, wasn't one to hide its happiness over the deal. Mahmoud Abbas 's spokesman, Nabil Abu Rodeina, said the deal "sent an important lesson to Israel of which it needs to learn that peace is the only solution for the Middle East, and the world powers have to be wound up in order to advance a peace deal between the Israelis and the Palestinians." He said the Palestinians want a "Middle East free of nuclear weapons," hinting to a nuclear Israel.  


An additional congratulator was Iraq. In an announcement that the Shi'a prime minister made, Nouri al-Maliki, he spoke of the giant step forward on the security and stability field in the region and eliminating the military tensions. "The process of confidence-building and stimulating dialogue will continue in a way that will fulfill the interests of both sides by preventing nuclear warfare proliferation."


Roi Kais, Eyal Lehman, AP contributed to this report



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פרסום ראשון: 11.24.13, 20:04
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