There is more give than take on the part of the international community in the interim agreement hammered out with Iran in Geneva on Sunday. Just when the sanctions were beginning to bite, the US-led world powers allowed the Iranian regime breathing space. This leverage could have been used to ensure a dismantling of the Iranian nuclear bomb project. However, President Obama seemed to have legacy concerns, given that he has nothing significant to show on the credit side in the realm of global affairs. Iran’s not-so-clandestine mission to acquire a bomb still remains in place, despite the accord on Sunday. At best, it has been shelved for the time being. At worst, it may proceed apace despite the accord, especially when Iran has succeeded in easing the crippling economic sanctions. The Iranian economy and its currency were in tatters. The supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani could not have felt comfortable with the growing hardships of the common Iranians due to the crippling economic sanctions. The Geneva agreement will make them less edgy on that account. For, immediately, Iran will have the freedom to export one million barrels of crude a day under the accord, till a comprehensive agreement is reached. Besides, the US would release $4 billion in Iranian oil sales lying in frozen bank accounts. In return, Iran would restrict its nuclear activity, enriching uranium in the existing centrifuges not above five per cent reactor-grade. Also, it has undertaken to dilute its stock of 20 per cent enriched-uranium or convert it to oxide. Not only would it not install new centrifuges, it would leave half of its 16,000 existing centrifuges inoperable. It would allow international inspections of its nuclear plants, barring the one where it is said to be in the advanced stages of assembling a nuclear device. The notable thing is that Iran is not dismantling any of its nuclear facilities. Nor is it willing to allow inspections of its most sensitive nuclear facility. In other words, this regime or any other future regime in Iran can undertake to restart the nuclear military programme, once the sanctions’ heat is off, or partially off. It is this flaw in the Geneva accord which has come in for sharp criticism from both Israel and Saudi Arabia. Even other Arab nations cannot be happy with the US decision to extend a lifeline to the beleaguered regime in Teheran. Israel has publicly remonstrated with the US, arguing that it would increase the threat and tensions in the Arabian peninsula. In case the six-month interim agreement does not lead to a permanent détente between Iran and the world community, Iran can always go back to making a bomb, as its capacity to do so would remain unimpaired by the Geneva agreement. According to reports, Iran can assemble a bomb in less than a month should it decide to do so. It is this which has Saudi Arabia and Israel worried, with unconfirmed reports suggesting that Saudi Arabia too plans to acquire a bomb with the assistance of Pakistan.
President Obama pressing ahead with the Iran agreement despite the opposition of two long-term allies of the US, namely, Saudi Arabia and Israel, is bound to face further trouble in the US Congress. Notably, sections of the Congress have already given notice that they intend to slap further sanctions against Iran. As for India, it has reason to feel happy because it would now be able to purchase Iranian oil in larger quantities. India has had to cut its imports from Iran due to sanctions, but it would be able to resume supplies and profit from cost and geographical advantages. Closer cooperation between India and Iran could prove mutually beneficial in dealing with Afghanistan, once the US-led multinational forces withdraw next year. Overall, however, the possibility of increased tensions in the entire West Asian region could affect the growth of the Indo-Iranian economic cooperation.