Nuclear Deal Will Boost Iran-EU Ties

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Iran Daily's Exclusive Interview with Gerta Zaimi
By: Kian Raad

Europeans were the first to welcome the nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers made in Vienna last month. Shortly after the landmark agreement, senior officials from Germany and France visited Tehran and a high-ranking Italian delegation followed suit. Iran Daily has talked to Gerta Zaimi, a Florence-based political scientist, to see why European countries are keen to expand their political and economic ties in the wake of the nuclear accord.     

IRAN DAILY: Do you think the nuclear agreement is a win-win deal for Iran and the 5+1?

Gerta Zaimi: Yes. I think in case it will be implemented it is a win-win result. It seems a very realistic agreement. The issue is to obtain through negotiations what you might obtain using military force. I repeat, if properly implemented, it is an achievement for non-proliferation and regional security. The objective of a Middle East free of nuclear weapons is agreed in principle by all parties. The deal promises to head off a nuclear arms race in the region, even though it strengthens Iran. Iran does keep its nuclear facilities, but with far less centrifuges.

From its side, Tehran will receive billions in unfrozen oil revenues, would resume trade and investment relations with the West and the East wishing the funds will be used primarily to restore capital investment and public finances hit by low oil prices.

The reopening of trade could therefore give a fresh breath to the finances of the country.

Iran will also have legitimacy for its nuclear program. If Implemented, one can indeed hope that the nuclear deal will play to the advantage of the more moderate factions and elements in the Islamic Republic.

For the moment, there’s absolutely no sign of this. So this accord is going to conserve and preserve the power of Iran.

Q: Are you of the opinion that the deal will change the geopolitical map of the Middle East?

A: Any hope that Iran will abandon its regional policies in the Middle East cannot concern the short term, as it probably implies a realignment of forces inside Iran itself. We don’t know how much money Iran is going to put into the fight against the ISIL, or in Syria, Hezbollah, Houthis or even Hamas.

Regarding Syria, there are not evidences toward a negotiated solution to the Syrian crisis. And I think there won’t be signs of changes in Iran’s policy in the region. So it seems natural and realistic that the policy of the other actors won’t change. What happened is that two Sunni competitors in the region, Turkey and Saudi Arabia, welcomed the deal.

Q: How Italians look at the deal and the future of Iran after its implementation? What are the benefits of the deal for Europe and Italy, especially if sanctions are lifted and Iran’s market is open?

A: For sure, for Italians as for the rest of Europe, or China, Brazil, India and others, the reopening of trade with Iran (a country of 77 million people, mostly young) is a great piece of news.

All that would happen is that Europe (the EU essentially) would tap into Iran’s large market with the government’s blessing.

Undoubtedly, the lifting of the sanctions will produce an immediate benefit on the oil sector, the hardest hit by international sanctions, which needs major investments. 

The second area of opportunity, after the oil sector, is automotive. Iran is expected to return over 2 million units per year if the sanctions are removed.

Another leading sector is the military. The army has weapons dating back to Soviet times and needs new and more powerful ones.

Even the transport (planes, trains, railways) will offer good prospects. The opportunities are also available in areas such as housing, construction, defense and tourism.

According to economic studies in Italy, the end of sanctions could lead to an increase of the Italian exports to Iran of nearly €3 billion in four years from 2015 to 2018.

In this scenario, the Italian government moves with conviction because exports are quite important to Italy’s economy in the hardest years of the crisis, a country in the EU only second behind Germany.

Italian diplomacy on Iran has acted in time, under the plaster. Foreign Minister Gentiloni visited Tehran just last February.

Already Emma Bonino as foreign minister in the government of Enrico Letta had resumed dialogue in December of 2013.

The agreement with Tehran should still have greater value since it could afford to carry Iranian gas to the Mediterranean, reducing the potential dependence of Europe on Russian gas. Turkey appears interested in becoming a major hub allowing the construction of a pipeline that would cross Iraq and then its Kurdistan region and Turkey.

Q: Do you think that Iran will turn to the West or the East or will try to remain a regional power?

A: This is the future, so all to see. I think from an economic standpoint, Iran will open both to the West and towards the East, but there will be no change in the status quo in geopolitical terms - at least not in the short term.

Iran will continue to try to have a powerful role in the region.

There is no reason to believe that enmity with Iran will not end, but there is no reason to believe it will cease rapidly.

Q: What effects will this deal have on Iran’s relations with neighboring Arab countries?

A: Persian Gulf Arab states despite their rivalry with Iran stand to benefit from increased business ties with it. Each PGCC country has a specific relationship. Oman, Qatar, which manages the joint oil field with Iran, and Kuwait welcomed the nuclear agreement expressing public congratulations.

But despite the fact that there would be expansion in Iranian trade with Persian Gulf states, there is no trust in relations between some of them.

The approach of Saudi Arabia is designed to shut down opportunities for a broader US-Iranian détente. The United States must also be careful to balance the reassurances to partners with efforts to integrate Iran into the regional security landscape to reduce sectarian tensions that are destabilizing the region.

Source: Iran Daily

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