The six world powers (known as the P5+1; Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States plus Germany) and Iran are holding talks to begin the process of lifting major economic sanctions against the Islamic Republic.
The sanctions, which had been enacted on the ruling clerics, were among the most comprehensive and efficacious regime of sanctions against any rogue state in our era. That’s why the sanctions brought the Ayatollahs to the negotiating table.
Nevertheless, it appears that the lifting of these sanctions may begin as early as the end of March, even before a final nuclear deal will be reached at the end of June.
The regime of sanctions had developed over thirty years due to the Islamic Republic’s defiance of the International Atomic Energy Agency, its non-compliance with the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the ruling clerics’ sponsorship of terrorism and human rights abuses.
As a result, the regime of sanctions is not solely imposed on Tehran because of its clandestine nuclear and underground activities. The removal of current sanctions will definitely overshadow Iran’s record in human rights violations, domestic repression, and support for militia groups across the Middle East.
It is worth noting that the Obama administration had already eased some major sanctions on Iran when the interim deal was struck. The easing of sanctions was linked to some of Iran’s sectors such as metal, petrochemical, and gold industries. Several billions of dollars were also released to the Islamic Republic by the United States.
More fundamentally, it was due the sanctions, primarily the ones enacted by the United Nations Security Council, the European Union, and the United States on Iran’s energy and financial sectors, that the ruling mullahs were brought to their knees and agreed to come to the negotiating table. With this regime of sanctions being lifted during the nuclear agreement, what leverage will the West have to bring the rogue state of the Islamic Republic to the negotiating table in the future? What political leverage will the West hold against the Ayatollahs in case they continued to sponsor militia groups, back up the Syrian regime, violate human rights, and interfere in the political affairs of other countries?
It took decades to get China and Russia to agree to pressure the Islamic Republic and pass four UN resolutions including banning Iran from buying and selling nuclear technology which are aimed at developing nuclear weapons, and imposing an arms embargo on the Islamic Republic.
With these UN resolution being reverted with the stroke of a pen, the West will significantly lose their say over Iran’s regional hegemonic ambitions and malicious activities. Bringing Russia and China back to agreeing on pressuring the Islamic Republic is not going to be a piece of cake.
On the other hand, when Iranian leaders are unshackled from the economic restrains imposed by the international community and when the lifting of economic sanctions against the Islamic Republic occurs anytime soon, this will bring about significant changes — not only in the economic status of the Islamic Republic in comparison to other regional powers, but also the geopolitical chessboard of the Middle East and the balance of power between Iran and other countries in the region.
Economically speaking, when sanctions on Iran’s energy and financial sectors are lifted, Iran will reenter the world trade market at full speed. Geopolitically speaking, Iran’s oil exports will ratchet up, increasing Iran’s leverage in OPEC and subsequently decrease the political leverage of other oil producing nations.
Being unshackled from economic sanctions, Iran will undoubtedly be a major economic power directing political situations in some countries more confidently. The Islamic Republic’s support of President Bashar al Assad will increase finically and militarily. Iran is more likely to interfere in other countries’ affairs including Jordan, Yemen and Bahrain by supporting some Shiite groups and oppositional groups which serve Iran’s national, geopolitical, and strategic interests.
Ultimately when the thirty-year regime of sanctions are lifted, the international community will lose its strong leverage against Iran in curbing its nuclear program. In other words, Tehran can continue its nuclear ambitions covertly or overtly without being concerned that its political system will be endangered due to economic restrictions.
It is time for the Obama administration to reconsider whether lifting the regime of sanctions so swiftly is a rational, wise, and intelligent move.
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