Vladimir Sazhin: "Iran has almost not changed after year without sanctions"
Today marks the one-year anniversary since the beginning of the implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPA) on the Iranian nuclear program, according to which, a number of the anti-Iranian sanctions of the West has been lifted in exchange for a reduction of Tehran's nuclear energy development. A senior research fellow of the Institute for Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Vladimir Sazhin, told Vestnik Kavkaza how Iran and its relations with the world have changed in the last year.
- Vladimir Igorevich, what was the first year without nuclear sanctions for Iran?
- Already in January 2016, immediately after the lifting of the sanctions, Tehran has taken active steps, the whole attack on the West, we might say, to restore the relations, which it had with other countries before the sanctions in both the trade, economic and political spheres. In particular, a few days later, the Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Iran, a lot of economic and trade agreements were concluded between the two republics. After that, the Iranian President Hassan Rouhani visited Italy, Vatican and France, where he had signed documents totalling billions of US dollars, including the purchase of civil aircraft. Now these agreements are embodied in contracts, aircraft deliveries have already started. All year Iran has resumed its former relations with almost all countries - India, Southeast Asian countries, Europe and Russia. I would say that the first year after lifting of the sanctions was successful for the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Of course, there were many difficulties. Sanctions cannot be removed in one day - it is a difficult process, moreover, the Iranian business needed time to prove its worth. In addition, the influential politicians in Iran and the US, who oppose the nuclear agreement between Iran and the P5+1, did not disappear after January 16. Opponents of the JCPA are trying to prove from different positions that it is not acceptable - for both Tehran and Washington. Nevertheless, despite these difficulties, the process will continue, because the JCPA is designed for 10-15 years. Exceptions are possible at some stages, but I am confident that the plan will be executed.
- In your opinion, are Iranians satisfied with the way the West is fulfilling its part of the JCPA?
- After signing the agreement on July 14, 2015, the euphoria has started in Iran at all levels, many thought that everything could be decided on January 16. Alas, this was not true: not all the world's banks are ready to cooperate with Iran, not all the companies are returning to the republic. Despite the fact that, according to official data, the year after lifting the sanctions the Iranian economy has improved in 2016, the Iranians have questions: not everything is fine for the total mass of the Iranian population, positive developments have not yet had a positive impact on the living standards of the country. There is a certain mistrust of the West and Western businesses in the country now.
- Has the position of the reformers led by President Hassan Rouhani strengthened during the year?
- Of course. The results of last year's elections to the Majlis and the Council of Experts, where the supporters of President Rouhani have began to play a significant role, is the indication of this. It is important to note that the death of Ayatollah Rafsanjani has undermined the unity of the politicians surrounded by liberal reformers, as the authority of Rafsanjani has been and remains very high. Rafsanjani was the ideologist of the reform direction and a politician with a very serious influence and connections in virtually all the power groups in the country - even opponents respected him. The Ayatollah created conditions for better activities of the Cabinet of Ministers headed by President Rouhani, and his death will affect the political situation in the country for a long time.
- What are the threats of the JCPA disruption?
- The most powerful opposition to the JCPA is the new US administration led by President-elect Donald Trump, and Washington will certainly try to complicate the implementation of the agreement. But do not forget that the JCPA is an international treaty, concluded between Iran, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany. It was supported by a special resolution of the UN Security Council, in which the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action is legally justified, and such an influential organization as the IAEA. Therefore, it is impossible to reset, eliminate this nuclear agreement alone, even for such an active policy as Trump.
The actions of, relatively speaking, the radicals inside Iran are more dangerous. They can take advantage of the anti-Iranian rhetoric and Trump's policy to declare its disagreement with the JCPA provisions, as the Americans did not want to fulfill the requirements of the plan. The match of the efforts of the US and Iranian opponents of the nuclear deal is a threat: it could lead to a political explosion with serious consequences for Iran.