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There are big lessons to be learnt from the Iran deal

John Kerry & Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Sharif

The US-Iran agreement, albeit temporary, may well be the diplomatic coup of the decade, or indeed the biggest peaceful shifting of the tectonic plates since the last World War in the most dangerous area on the planet. But it is as well, for future reference, to identify the specific mechanisms which allowed this breakthrough to proceed.

First, it came about because sanctions were applied to Iran which seriously threatened the political and economic stability of the country. These pressures had caused Iran’s currency to halve in value against the US dollar in the last 2 years, its foreign exchange holdings in excess of $50bn to be frozen, and crucially its oil revenues to be cut by more than half. Restrictions had been placed on Iran’s trade in gold, petrochemicals, car and plane parts which cumulatively took their toll.

Second, the lessons from the Bush era have been learnt and should continue to be borne in mind in future. Bush started two wars, neither of which the US won, whereas here war has been averted which could have consumed the whole of the Middle East in a regional conflagration.

And it is worth noting that if Miliband hadn’t rejected the government’s determined intention to back a US missile strike against Syria, it would almost certainly have happened, which would have ended any rapprochement with Iran for at least a decade.

Equally it has deflected Netanyahu’s trigger-happy readiness to launch a pre-emptive attack on any challenger in the region to Israel’s self-ascribed right to a nuclear monopoly. Dogged, lengthy, painstaking diplomacy has been given a chance and it has worked, warmongers should note.

Third, although this limited agreement could easily be scuppered, for example by the US Congress pressing ahead with further sanctions against Iran, it does still offer by far the best hope for an early resolution of the Syrian quagmire in the reopened so-called Geneva II talks. That will depend on whether Russia and Iran, Assad’s main allies, can be induced to us their influence to force him to compromise.

The main obstacle remains the Syrian opposition’s insistence that an essential part of the deal is that Assad must go. But the chances of a way being found to circumvent this block are certainly now much higher than they were before yesterday’s pact with Iran.

Fourth, it is just conceivable that the first essential step has been taken to wind down, or even end, the Middle East’s status as the world’s most destructive cauldron of conflict. Through the Iranian deal the US has loosened its bonds with both Israel and Saudi Arabia, and the fracking revolution in the US has dramatically reduced US dependence on Middle East oil.

If the US pivots towards Asia, as Obama has declared, and its interest in the Middle East has waned, we might – just might – be on the verge of a positive reconfiguration of relations in this global sector which has eluded the world for most of the last century.

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