Iran’s Economic Crossroads

Vali Nasr in the New York Times:

ScreenHunter_441 Dec. 04 20.30Critics have dismissed the Nov. 24 interim accord reached with Iran on its nuclear program as marginal, tenuous and easily reversed. But an enormous amount has changed, especially from Iran’s viewpoint. Essentially, Iran agreed to freeze its enrichment program for six months to allow time for talks on a potential final agreement, while a few sanctions were lifted. Overlooked in the debate over the merits of the deal are the economic dimensions that are surely a factor in Iran’s calculus.

These considerations, more than ideological ones, may well shape the landscape of future bargaining. It would be a colossal error to restore or expand the few sanctions that are being lifted, as some members of the United States Congress are threatening to do.

Before the deal started developing, in secret talks that started in March, Iran’s leaders faced a dilemma: scrap their whole nuclear program or live indefinitely under sanctions that were strangling their economy. Rather than surrender completely, they swallowed the economic hardship and eventually came to think that they could endure it for longer than the West expected.

But now they can envision a compromise that allows them a nominal right to enrichment if they forgo a path to nuclear weapons — and full relief from sanctions once they sign a permanent accord. That is a deal that might be accepted even by the most hard-line forces in Iran.

More here.