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The time for a US-Iran deal is now, says Iran scholar

Rouzbeh Parsi
Rouzbeh Parsi

Lund University Iran expert Rouzbeh Parsi on the importance of a nuclear deal with Iran:


Q: Why is this the right time for a deal?

A: The Obama administration understands, especially after the election of President Rouhani in June 2013, that there is a negotiation partner who is credible and sincere in trying to solve this issue.            

Iran has a new president who is much more level-headed when it comes to what can and cannot be achieved, and he also campaigned on the explicit promise of revitalising the economy. So – now you have two leaders who mean business.

Q: Why is a deal important?

If there is no deal, everyone is going to pretend that they can go back to the way things were before, but that is impossible: that was a high-tension brinksmanship game, that none of them really want to continue. What will we have instead? 

Initially, the two sides will want to hurt one another, so Iran may go back to enriching to 20% and above, and the US will try to implement more sanctions. However, if the story will be that Washington failed the deal, I am not sure Russia and China will remain in the sanction group. If they don’t, the international sanctions will break up, and Iran will build an economic relationship with the world, outside of the US and Europe. Not as much as they would like, but much more than we would like to see.       

An even worse scenario is that those who have been itching for a military response from the beginning will say: we tried sanctions, we tried negotiations, everything failed, and the only way to stop Tehran from whatever it is we’re suspecting them of doing is through warfare.

Q: What are the biggest misunderstandings about a possible deal?

A: People underestimate the amount of restrictions there will be on the Iranian programme, and they seem to think that once those restrictions are lifted at some point in the future, Iran will be allowed to do whatever it wants. That is not true.

The other misunderstanding is that we somehow can get Iran to give up all these things, without giving them anything in return - that the sanctions can remain even though the Iranians have given us something.

Q: What would a deal mean for Iran’s relationship with the West in the future?

It opens up for much closer economic and trade cooperation. It will take time, but in the long run, it will benefit both Iranian society and us on this side. It would be difficult for those in Iran who are against any kind of exchange with the West to continue arguing for that. It will open the country up and create a momentum of its own.

About Rouzbeh Parsi:
Rouzbeh Parsi, a senior lecturer in Human Rights at Lund University, wrote his dissertation on Iranian nationalism. He has, besides his academic work, also worked for the European Union Institute for Security Studies as a Senior Analyst analysing political and societal developments in Iran, Iraq and the Persian Gulf (2009-2013)

Rouzbeh Parsi
rouzbeh [dot] parsi [at] mrs [dot] lu [dot] se (rouzbeh[dot]parsi[at]mrs[dot]lu[dot]se)
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