‘What will define the Middle East is no more the Arab Spring, but a new nuclear geopolitics and Iran’s bigger role’

Iranian political philosopher RAMIN JAHANBEGLOO is associate professor of political science at York University, Toronto, he is the recipient of the 2009 peace prize awarded by the Association for the UN in Spain for his academic work in promoting dialogue between cultures and advocacy of non-violence. In New Delhi on a lecture tour, he spoke to Sudeep Paul:

The Geneva nuclear deal has the potential to change Iran's role in the Middle East, if Tehran and the P5+1 don't fall out. But will a fresh round of US sanctions against Iran complicate or jeopardise the deal?

The Geneva deal is a very important turn in Iranian diplomacy, towards not only the United States but also Europe. It opens the way to a new re-writing of the political map of the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia. It also re-integrates Iran as a political entity and not only a security problem into the international community as a legitimate regional power. Though only a first step, the agreement has important implications. It could ease the diplomatic relations between the US and Iran, but it could also prepare the way for coordinated humanitarian relief and a political solution in Syria. Interestingly, this first nuclear agreement between Iran and the P5+1 is actually a double-edged sword -- it can open new options with regard to Iran's regional role in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf and it's a victory for the moderate government of Hassan Rouhani against the Iranian hardliners, and also of the Obama administration's positive steps against the hawks in Washington. At the same time, it could be a very difficult journey for both Iran and the US, mainly because of the hardliners in either country.

But the important thing is that, in Iran, people are becoming not only more hopeful because of this deal, but they now have higher expectations of the Iranian government on issues such as the management of a suffering Iranian economy and a difficult and factionalised Iranian domestic politics. So if we look forward in the next six months, either there will be a weakening of the deal in Geneva and we'll go back to where we started, or there will be a breakthrough in Iranian diplomacy and it can pave the way for more lasting progress and change. As a result of this, Iran can reintegrate itself as a country in the concert of nations and play the role of mediator in solving issues like Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and many others.

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