The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action agreed to in Vienna by the P5+1 countries and Iran is clearly a landmark agreement, one which will significantly alter the political and economic balance of power in the Middle East, as well as the global strategic picture. However, amidst the chorus of celebration from many capitals around the world, and condemnations from Israel, some of the Gulf states, and certain segments in Iran, much of the geopolitical significance of the agreement has been overlooked.
From this perspective, the deal is more than simply a new chapter in Iran’s relations with the West and the world at large; it is the agreement by which Iran will transform itself from a potentially powerful, though politically and economically isolated country, to an emerging regional power that will become a linchpin of the strategies of both the western and non-western worlds. Of course, this potential benefit came at the cost of major concessions from Tehran, concessions which are in many ways difficult to justify, especially within the context of Iranian domestic politics where issues of national pride have a very real political currency and cannot necessarily be measured in rials, euros, and dollars.
However, an analysis of the impact of the deal cannot simply be relegated to what is in Iran’s immediate interests, nor those of the P5+1 countries, but rather must take into account the long-term strategic imperatives of each. Moreover, the emerging non-western alliance of BRICS, Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), New Silk Road, and Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) broadly speaking, factor significantly into this deal. So too does Turkey, both an important trading partner for Iran, but also a political adversary.
Seen in this way, the agreement reached in Vienna is a watershed in early 21st Century geopolitics and economic development, one which will have vast implications for years, and perhaps decades, to come.