May 18, 2016

What Does the Future Hold for Relations Between America and Iran?

This post has been contributed.

The deal between America and Iran that sees the lifting of sanctions in return for a halt to Iran's nuclear program is a big step. The deal and its historical relevance should not be understated. But this deal doesn’t represent a full embrace between the two nations. There are many issues that are still not resolved, and there are problems that mean the countries are not going to be allies soon. In recent times, the hardliners in the Iranian regime have been dealt numerous blows. Moderate politicians and allies of the President, Hassan Rouhani, have found success in elections. There are problems heading down the line for the deal and the relations between American and Iran though. So, let’s explore what these problems are.

Some observers with deep knowledge of the Iranian situation would argue that President Obama got a bad deal with Iran. This is not a universal opinion, but there is a divide in the perception of the nuclear deal. Mark Dubowitz has argued that Obama has weakened America’s position, giving strength to the Iranians. This is something that many argue could come back to haunt the next American President. Donald Trump, for example, has been very critical of Obama’s deal. On the other hand, the deal could completely collapse if the next President took a hardline approach to dealings with Iran. There are many people on the Republican side of American politics who think the deal should simply be retracted. This would see sanctions reimposed, and tensions could then escalate.

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There are also many other issues, aside from the nuclear issue, that could cause rifts between Iran and America. These problems haven’t been solved by the nuclear deal, and both sides have made this fact very clear. One of these issues relates to Iran’s attitudes towards human rights. Their human rights record isn’t good, and this is something that American and the West opposes. On top of that, the Iranian regime is unwilling to get too close to America anyway. They don’t want to be sucked into America’s orbit of influence. And while America is still very close to Saudi Arabia - the country that is the sworn enemy of Iran - this could never happen. Having said that, relations are improving. And there is no doubt that opening the lines of dialogue will pull the relationship in slightly better direction.

Fear remains on both sides though. Earlier this year, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard launched test missiles. This is something that was condemned by the Americans. And it seemed to be a warning from Iran that it still had the ability to launch missiles that could reach Israel. Israel is one of America’s closest allies, as well as one of the biggest critics of the nuclear deal that was completed. Fear and suspicion are not going to dissipate overnight. And there have been instances of the Iranians taking American sailors at gunpoint in recent months. These instances will not sooth fears on either side. But the overall impact of recent changes remains to be seen.

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