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WAIT AND WATCH

Gruelling negotiations over the weekend have led to the finalization of the interim nuclear deal between Iran and the P5 nations together with Germany. None of the parties in the deal is making merry yet. They know that the next six months, the term for which the interim deal is supposed to last, would determine the possibility and shape of a final deal. But the way things have shaped up so far undeniably gives Iran a major takeaway — an acknowledgement of its right to enrich uranium, apparently for peaceful purposes. It can also continue its “research” to develop advanced centrifuges for the same purpose. For what Iran calls a “balanced, equal outcome”, it has to thank Russia and China, which stopped the United States of America from nit-picking on technicalities such as these to deny the world the possibility of a major breakthrough in international politics. The idea is that a cooperative Iran could be coaxed into toning down its intervention in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon as well as Palestine besides giving up its dash for the bomb.

There is no doubt that the US has more reasons to worry about appearing to be supine in matters relating to Iran than either Russia or China. This is not merely because it was the Americans’ idea to brand Iran as part of the “axis of evil”. It is also because the US has to worry about the fall-out of the nuclear deal on its ties with its other allies, especially Israel and Saudi Arabia. As Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, seemed to remind the world at the recent funeral of Israel’s former prime minister, Ariel Sharon, Israel will not dither in standing up to the US. Saudi Arabia has already stated that it is turning its back on its friendship with the US. The Barack Obama administration’s bet thus lies on delivering the final, and not interim, deal with Iran that would push the latter into committing to a roll back of its aggressive nuclear programme. That alone can stop Israel from acting unilaterally against Iran and Saudi Arabia from an increased meddling in the Middle East. Much hinges on the Obama administration’s ability to stop the US Congress from imposing new sanctions on Iran. Much also hinges on Iran keeping to the terms of the interim deal and its restraint in the pursuit of “research”. Either could be seen as a deal-breaker and in six months, the world could be at the same starting point as it is now.