This past week has been historic for Iran. After years of isolation and economic hardship, the nuclear deal finally went into effect and sanctions were lifted. International companies are returning back to the country after a long period of absence. Iranian banks are reentering the world financial systems again. Vital import and export lines are reopening for Iran. Billions of frozen Iranian assets were unblocked worldwide to boost a crippled economy. A young and vibrant society that has long been hungry for change is now reemerging into the world, with many hopes and high aspirations. And travel experts keep telling the world to visit the newly welcoming Iran, this long forgotten gem of a destination.
It was a happy week for Iranians across the world who stayed up until very late hours to follow the news of the implementation of a historic deal. Those who've lost loved ones in flight accidents in Iran's aging fleet are happy to see that the United States is finally allowing Iran to buy new commercial aircraft, after three decades of deadly flights and thousands of civilian deaths. Those who saw loved ones suffer or die from the lack of vital medicine due to sanctions will now have hope for a brighter future. Young tech entrepreneurs in Iran have been eagerly waiting for this day to join the international business and tech community and turn Tehran into the Silicon Valley of the Middle East. Iranians in the diaspora are happy, too. I keep hearing of more Iranian students and young professionals abroad who speak of moving back to their country now. Even those who are not thinking of moving back are proud to see their homeland come out of a dark era.
A young and vibrant society that has long been hungry for change is now reemerging into the world, with many hopes and high aspirations.
It was also a good week for the United States. Four American citizens imprisoned in Iran for a few years were released as part of a prisoner swap between the two countries. They were exchanged with seven Iranians who were accused or convicted of violating sanctions against Iran. The historic prisoner deal was secretly made between Iran and the United States on the sidelines of the nuclear negotiations. It came as a big surprise to the general public in both countries and both governments were able to take domestic credit for this side deal. President Obama and his team came out as strong winners, after years of taking harsh criticism for not caring enough about jailed American citizens in Iran. And Iran's moderate administration was seen as a successful negotiator that was able to take something in exchange for giving up the American prisoners.
What is even more fascinating about these historic deals between Iran and the United States -- staunch enemies for over three decades -- is that they are not limited to the nuclear dispute. The past two years of nuclear negotiations made way for a new chapter of diplomacy between the two countries that did not exist since they broke ties in 1979. After the 1979 revolution in Iran and the hostage crisis between Iran and the United States, any issue or dispute between the two countries had to be resolved through third party mediators. But since 2013 when U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif started direct negotiations, the era of no communication has ended.
These last victories will soon become legacies of an American leader who chose peace over war. President Rouhani, however, is just getting started.
Just a few days before the implementation of the nuclear deal, two U.S. Navy vessels in the Persian Gulf drifted into Iranian waters and their crew were arrested by Iran's Revolutionary Guards forces. It was a scary incident by all means, and many were speculating that it would not end well or soon. But to everyone's surprise, the new line of communication between top diplomats in both countries came to the aid. John Kerry called Javad Zarif directly and was assured that American sailors would be released shortly. And they were. Diplomats did their magic, and two longtime foes were able to quickly resolve what could have become a military nightmare for both sides.
But big victories don't come without costs. While moderate politicians in both capitals have been scoring credit, their critics have not been silent. U.S. hawks are slamming President Obama for being too soft on the "the terrorist state Iran," and Iran's hardliners are dismissing President Rouhani for making too many concessions and bowing to the "Great Satan." President Obama will be out of office soon. These last victories will soon become legacies of an American leader who chose peace over war. President Rouhani, however, is just getting started. This victory was his major election promise in 2013, and it was just fulfilled. Now that the nuclear dispute is resolved and sanctions are lifted, he still has a long way to repair a destroyed economy, create millions of jobs for a very young society and lift a large country out of years of political, economic and social isolation. President Rouhani also needs to attend to domestic, social and political reforms, protect civil and human rights in the country and release dozens of political prisoners. Iranians have long been waiting for this day, patiently.
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