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The Persian Puzzle

The nuclear deal between Iran and six major powers??? P5+1??? is like a feeble baby delivered after an unusually long labour, with the parents holding breath to see if the newly arrived can survive the crucial early months. Though the official birthdate was 24 November 2013, the deal came to life on 20 January, when Tehran stopped enriching uranium beyond 5 percent. US President Barack Obama, the lead midwife, has put the chance of the baby???s survival at no more than 50:50. Such caution is warranted.Groundbreaking international agreements such as the one in Geneva two months ago materialize only when the convergence of seemingly diverse interests of countries reaches critical mass. Such moments are rare in history.There was pressure on both sides to strike a deal because the window of opportunity, afforded by the election of the moderate Hassan Rouhani as Iran???s president in June, was limited. And the clock was ticking on when Iran???s stockpile of 20 percent enriched uranium would reach 250 kilograms, considered enough to make one atom bomb if the fissile material were enriched to weapons-grade 90 percent purity.During a crucial meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry, Iran???s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif warned that if an agreement was not reached, hardliners would be in the driving seat in Tehran in six months??? evidently referring to March elections for the Iranian parliament, a powerful body in the Islamic Republic.Regular elections to Iran???s parliament and presidency provide an opportunity for voters to shape the regime???s policies. The economic downturn wrought by the US-led sanctions on oil sales, financial transactions, airlines and transportation led the electorate to favour moderate, pragmatic Rouhani. In Washington the Geneva Accord enabled Obama to show that the peaceful strategy of economic sanctions had worked, saving the world from the potentially catastrophic consequences of hot war with Iran.Above and beyond these practical



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