Iran Deal

What if This Goes Wrong?

Iran's president Hassan Rowhani dpa distorted
Iran's President Hassan Rowhani knows that the West longs for business with his country.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Iran offers huge potential for Western businesses, but is also a potential threat for stability in the Middle East.

  • Facts

    Facts

    • Iran and Western powers struck a deal over the country’s nuclear program in Vienna on July 14.
    • Israel has been critical of the deal, fearing that lifting of economic sanctions would strengthen its archenemy Iran.
    • German Economy Minister and Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel and business representatives paid a three-day visit to Iran just days after the deal was signed.
  • Audio

    Audio

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There can be no doubt: The P5+1 group of leading nations put enormous effort into securing an agreement with Iran over Tehran’s nuclear program. However, although many are now celebrating the deal reached in Vienna as a triumph of diplomacy, the good things have yet to materialize.

For many years, Iran has systematically deceived and misled the international community. For some time, at least, it also pursued a nuclear weapons’ program. Repeatedly, Iran denied inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency access to suspicious facilities. It was clear that they were trying to hide something.

As a consequence, the international community imposed sanctions; access to Iranian bank accounts abroad was denied and billions of dollars in assets were blocked. Moreover, many international companies withdrew from Iran – and the Iranian economy was in a bad shape.

So clearly, Tehran was interested in these negotiations to get rid of the crippling sanctions and to regain access to the bank accounts. But there is good reason to believe that the mullah regime has never had any intention whatsoever of permanently restricting its nuclear program, or of giving up its quest for hegemony in the Middle East.

By signing the agreement in Vienna, Iran, the lawbreaker, will not only free itself from the yoke of sanctions, but also strengthen its position in the Middle East.

Iran’s enmity toward Israel didn’t even figure in during the talks, nor the fact that Tehran has been sponsoring terror groups, such as Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Perhaps this agreement will, in the short term, prevent an escalation of tensions in the region. However, this agreement is also a slap in the face for those who rightly perceive Iran as a threat – not just for Israel, but also for other countries such as Saudi Arabia.

It seems that the many current conflicts in the region are putting too much strain on the West, and so it was desirable to seek quiet on at least one of the fronts, in spite of the high price that might now have to be paid.

There are also other interests at stake – business interests. For quite some time, German and other companies have been keenly waiting to re-enter the Iranian market. They don’t care too much about Iran’s nuclear program, or the dire human rights situation in the country. They want to make money again.

And only days after the Vienna agreement was signed, Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, again incited hatred against America and Israel.

Therefore, it is somewhat irritating that Germany’s vice-chancellor and economy minister waited only five days before flying to Tehran with a delegation of German business leaders. It seems that for some, time is of the essence to get back into business with Iran.

Of course, the minister felt duty-bound to raise the issue of human rights. But the regime in Tehran knows very well what mattered most to him and his delegation: business deals. In light of the anti-Israel and anti-America agitation coming from this regime, the suggestion by Minister Gabriel to build bridges between Israel and Iran was somewhat naïve.

It would have been much better to make new commercial relations with Iran dependent on a change in the regime’s stance toward Israel. Instead, Brecht’s famous quote comes to mind: “First food, then morality.”

And what if Iran will not honor the agreement? What if Iran continues to do what it has done extremely successfully over the past 13 years, namely to continue the game of cat-and-mouse with the international community?

Israel and other states in the region will be most affected if this is allowed to happen. It is therefore lamentable that Iran’s enmity toward Israel didn’t even figure during the talks, nor the fact that for a long time Tehran has been sponsoring terror groups such as Hezbollah in Lebanon or Hamas in Gaza. The fact that these matters weren’t even raised is one of the reasons why Israel is so adamantly opposed to the Vienna agreement.

Of course, it would be too easy to reject this agreement outright. Instead, what matters now is to ensure that it is properly implemented in all of its aspects. The text is very detailed, and the West must reject any Iranian attempt to circumvent this agreement by claiming that it contains ambiguous clauses. Allowing Iran to play more double games will turn the governments that signed this agreement into a laughing stock and jeopardize the deal.

Should Tehran use this agreement to win more time and use its regained financial strength to pursue a nuclear weapons program, the only option left might be a military intervention, which everybody is so keen to avoid.

But as the old proverb goes: “The road to hell is often paved with good intentions.”

 

To contact the author: gastautor@handelsblatt.com

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