THE BLOG
01/19/2016 01:49 pm ET Updated Jan 16, 2017

Iran Nuclear Deal: Success of Diplomacy and Opening of a New Era

Those who ideologically opposed the negotiations with Iran on the nuclear issue have been proven wrong. Diplomacy works and the results are a clear success for the Non Proliferation Treaty, the region which desperately needs a new approach, the Iranian people who have been under crippling sanctions for over a decade and the rest of the world which is now free to reengage in economic and financial relations with Iran. We need to learn several key lessons from this historic deal.

First, diplomacy is strength not weakness. Very few people believed that choosing the path of de-escalation and dialogue would prevent a military confrontation and successfully lead to a peaceful resolution of the nuclear crisis. The negotiations that took place between Iran and the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany) have been tough but the tremendous political capital invested by both sides mixed with the dangerous escalation have led to more understanding, more communication and ultimately compromise. Therefore, the situation has evolved from lose-lose to win-win.

Before the serious talks began, each side refused pressure from the other and the lack of communication along with threats created a dangerous cycle. As a result, more indiscriminate sanctions led to more Iranian nuclear capabilities, and vice-versa. The unprecedented diplomatic effort, particularly between U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, proved that successful diplomacy is about dealing with your enemy, not your friend. Two years of dialogue and engagement have built the trust that is necessary to open a new chapter in which responsible leaders are now able to serve their respective national interests in a more effective way.

Two examples: first, the American sailors who accidentally crossed the Iranian waters into the Persian Gulf were detained by Iran. However, they were released within the 16 hours due to direct U.S.-Iran communication lines. With the huge lack of trust that prevailed between Tehran and Washington before the opening of these direct lines, the likely escalation would have turned a minor incident into a bargaining chip. Instead, the American sailors were quickly released.

A second example is the release of the five American prisoners, which is the result of the crucial direct dialogue between the two countries. As Kerry stated, "there is no doubt that the pace and progress of the humanitarian talks accelerated in light of the relationships forged and the diplomatic channels unlocked over the course of the nuclear talks". Again, talking to your foe is strength and it is the core of diplomacy. Therefore, U.S. presidential candidates must recognize that it takes two to tango and that "distrust and verify", as Hilary Clinton stated, is not a formula for success. On the contrary, building trust is the key to getting concrete results.

Secondly, the success of diplomacy marks a strong defeat to the warmongers that have invested a strong political capital on the confrontation between Washington and Tehran, on both sides. Opponents of diplomacy have become powerful during this period of escalation and they have consolidated their power in this process. The successful implementation of the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) is opening space to the moderates and is offering the Rouhani government more potential to have a constructive role in several key areas such as the stabilization of the region, more privatization of the Iranian economy and healthy trade with its neighbors, whom could stand to gain from the economical growth in order to face their own challenges.

The isolation of Iran has created a vacuum from New Delhi to Istanbul and from Moscow to Addis Ababa. The return of Iran on the international stage will strengthen the creation of new economic partnerships that will, in the long run, create more stability.

As far as domestic Iranian affairs are concerned (and as I wrote the day Rouhani was elected) reducing the likelihood of a military confrontation allows the Iranian government "to break the securitized environment" and the Revolutionary Guards' control of the economy (which is one of Rouhani's priorities). The lifting of sanctions is opening the economy and the foreign investors are coming back to Iran. The private sector will benefit from the end of Iran's isolation and therefore Iran will be able to reduce the Revolutionary Guards' current hold of the economy.

Thanks to this tremendous diplomatic success, the Foreign Ministry is now leading in major issues such as the nuclear deal, the Syria peace talks, the release of the U.S. sailors and the release of the American prisoners in exchange of the release of Iranian prisoners held in the United States. President Hassan Rouhani's election in 2013 has provided more leeway to the Foreign Ministry and the first act was to transfer the nuclear file from the hands of Iran's Supreme National Security Council (under direct authority of the Supreme Leader) to Foreign Minister Javad Zarif. Though still under the authority of the Supreme Leader, Zarif's ability to lead the negotiation team has been critical to getting the deal.

The more Iran was sanctioned, the more Iran was becoming a military state. This dynamic is now over. With the upcoming elections of the Parliament (Majles) and the Assembly of Experts (in charge of supervising, replacing and electing the Supreme Leader), the moderates led by President Rouhani stand a greater chance to gain more seats and potentially obtain a majority. A victory by the Rouhani camp will further change the trajectory of Iran since it will allow his administration to implement more economic and social reforms, which can only improve the human rights situation.