The Iran deal


Good for the region


Finally Iran has reached an understanding over its nuclear programme with six major world powers that will put an end to the crippling sanctions imposed on it. The sanctions have bled the country’s economy, isolated Iran and strengthened its conservative clergy. In days to come at least $120 billion worth of assets frozen on account of sanctions are to be released. In addition the country would be allowed to freely sell its oil, collecting over $20 billion a year in oil revenues. The end of sanctions will also allow Iran to seek foreign investments. The historic agreement shows how countries can achieve their objectives through effective diplomacy without resorting to military means. The Iranians have shown remarkable shrewdness in sidelining Israel and Saudi Arabia which were among Washington’s closest allies and were deadly opposed to the US brokering the agreement.

The agreement is likely to reset relations between Iran and the West. It will also have ripple effects in the Middle East. There is now a need on the part of Iran and the Sunni Arab regimes to put an end to the race for sectarian hegemony. They need to pursue a policy of peace and tolerance.

Instead of being tied to the Saudi apron strings, Pakistan should have devised a more nuanced policy in line with its national interests. As the biggest Muslim country in the region, Pakistan could have played the role of a neutral arbiter by enjoying the trust of all the Gulf countries. Cross-border terrorist attacks from Pakistan’s territory and reprisals by Iran have added to mutual suspicions and mistrust. The Iranian government has misgivings about support to sectarian terrorists by Pakistan. The elimination of sectarian terrorism alone can remove that perception.

The end of the sanctions should usher in an era of closer relations between Pakistan and Iran. Full attention needs to be paid to reviving the Pak-Iran gas pipeline project which has been off the table since February 2014. For this the Prime Minister should visit Iran.