Iran Nuclear Deal and its Implications
The agreement between Iran and the Permanent Members of UN Security Council plus Germany (P5+1) regarding Iranâ€™s nuclear program in July 2015 has been considered historic on the global stage. Indeed, there are many ongoing conflicts in the world and an agreement between long time enemies over an issue as dangerous as nuclear power/weapon through negotiation is a welcome news. It is historic because it also illustrates that major players of the world can indeed get (at least some of) what they want without using arms. At the global stage this brings hope for the many ongoing conflicts and their sides to try the same path. However, at the regional level and in terms of Turkish-Iranian relations the deal has mixed implications. The following brief SWOT analysis of the Iranian nuclear dealâ€™s impact on Turkish-Iranian relations, aims for the parties to take advantage of the opportunities and avoid the potential pitfalls.Â
The strength of this agreement is based on the fact that all sides but especially the Obama administrationâ€™s efforts and will to resolve a long-time threat to regional and global peace. Although there are concerns on the Congressâ€™ approval of the deal, the chance for it to fail is low. President Obama is acting as if he wants to deserve the Nobel Peace Price, which he had won as soon as he came to office. He has also made significant progress is mending relations with Cuba, another long time adversary. Nevertheless, the agreement has been received with mixed comments at the global stage. Especially, regional powers that Iran has threatened many times, such as Israel, fiercely oppose this agreement. Experts warn that this deal could embolden Iranâ€™s regional ambitions, especially over the Shiite actors in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen. As Iran is using unconventional ways to support these actors for its political interests, any international agreement that lifts sanctions on Iran would simply enrich the country to increase its support for these actors. According to some estimates, Iranâ€™s support for Hezbollah and the Assad regime has cost nearly $10 billion last year and a richer Iran could only increase this figure, they argue.(1)
The impact of the agreement on Turkish-Iranian relations is also a mixed bag. It offers great opportunities but comes with challenges as well. The economic benefits of the agreement are underlined from the first day. Lifting the economic sanctions on Iran would relieve the Iranian economy as reflected in the joy of the Iranians celebrating the deal on the streets. Turkish officials have also been emphasizing the economic potential. For instance, Finance Minister Mehmet Simsek pointed out that as the sanctions against Iran are lifted, Turkish products will be exported to Iran, where they are in high demand.(2) Moreover, Simsek added that as Iran begins to export its oil to world markets, the price of oil will drop further, which will also benefit Turkey. Ali Reza Bikdeli, Iranâ€™s ambassador to Turkey, already expressed Iranâ€™s readiness to offer exclusive economic opportunities to Turkey.(3) The preferential trade agreement between the countries came into effect in January 2015. This agreement is expected to bring the volume of bilateral trade to $50 billion, which is more than three times the current $14 billion.(4) Thus, increasing trade and tourism are among the sectors that both countries can benefit in the post-deal stage.
However, the most important economic and strategic opportunity that may rise is in the area of energy. Turkey has been interested in Iran’s gas fields in South Pars area. Turkeyâ€™s economic success story, despite its precariousness, relies on lowering the cost of energy supplies. The larger portion of imported gas is used to produce electricity for the growing economy. Thus, in the long-run relief on Iranian sanctions could serve Turkeyâ€™s energy interests and economic growth. Moreover, Turkey has expressed interest in becoming a regional energy hub by transiting Central Asian and even Russian gas to Europe. TANAP is the lead project in this area where Azerbaijanâ€™s gas will be transported and adding Iranian gas to this pipeline that is being built could bring Turkey closer to its ambitions to becoming a regional energy hub.
In conclusion, if both countries can tone down their political rivalry in the region for higher economic interests, they can both be better off. This certainly requires revisiting their political ambitions in the region. The way forward for regional peace and development is to transform the conflicts in the region from a sectarian character to a humanitarian one. The strategy to solve the conflicts in Syria and Iraq can only be achieved through negotiation and diplomacy rather than use of force. The biggest evidence that this strategy pays off is the Iranian nuclear deal itself.
1) https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/a-deal-to-fund-iranian-imperialism/2015/08/03/a0ab57bc-3a10-11e5-b3ac-8a79bc44e5e2_story.html 2) http://www.hurriyet.com.tr/dunya/28635202.asp 3) http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/what-the-iran-deal-could-cost-turkey.aspx?pageID=238&nID=86376&NewsCatID=396 4) http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/what-the-iran-deal-could-cost-turkey.aspx?pageID=238&nID=86376&NewsCatID=396