In November 2013, Iran and the P5+1 US, UK, France, China and Russia plus Germany agreed an interim accord that saw Iran curb its nuclear activities in return for relief from economic sanctions. 2014 is the year in which a comprehensive deal was supposed to be reached; however, despite the progress , both parties agreed last November to extend the deadline by seven months. Both parties are cautiously confident that they can secure a political deal by March 2015 and seal the technical details by July of the same year.
Both Iran and the West have come a long way since the election, early 2013, of a more moderate Iranian President, Hassan Rouhani. This event was seen as a positive first step in mending ties between Tehran and West, and bridging the gap over the country's nuclear programme and outstanding issues. In September 2013, US President Barack Obama spoke to President Rouhani by telephone in the highest-level contact between the two countries in over three decades. The breakthrough interim agreement on Iran's nuclear programme was the continuation of trust building measures between the West and Iran.
Following the Interim Agreement, Iran and Britain appointed non-resident Chargés D'Affaires as a first step toward reopening their respective embassies.The re-integration of Iran to the international scene and the normalisation of relations between Iran and the West will be definitely faced by complex issues for Iran and its international interlocutors after decades of struggles.
Iran and the West: The interim international deal on Iran's nuclear programme can be described as a catalyst that could eventually lead to rapprochement between Iran and the West. In the optimal scenario, a comprehensive deal will be reached in 2015 and the sanctions are slowly removed which will revive Iran's economy, and eventually its liberal movement.
This comprehensive solution would involve a reciprocal, step-by-step process, and would produce the comprehensive lifting of all UN Security Council sanctions, as well as multilateral and national sanctions related to Iran's nuclear programme. The outcome of this normalisation discourse, in the relationship between the West and Iran, is significant in transforming the relationship between the two sides. Despite the varied perspectives regarding the nature of the impact, a great deal of economic and trade opportunities will open up for both sides. Moreover, this deal will definitely lower the risks of oil export disruption passing the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow artery through which 40% of global sea-borne oil exports pass. The rapprochement will also encourage cooperation to fight the terrorist group of ISIL.
Iran-and Arab Relations: The perceived competition between Iran and its Arab neighbours also suggests that it would be useful for Iran to engage with its Arab neighbours. Iran's influence in Iraq, Bahrain, Syria, Yemen and Lebanon presents serious concerns to the Gulf States. In addition to that, the Iranian dispute with United Arab Emirates over an island in the Persian Gulf presents another challenge to Iran's relations with the Gulf States. Due to the sectarian affinity, Iran relations with Gulf States will define, to a large extent, its relations with other Arab countries. It will be important to see Iran's approach to its relations with the Gulf States and its response to concerns of these countries which are to some extent legitimate.
Syrian conflict and the War on ISIL: Iran's leverage over the Syrian regime has been mentioned by experts in calls for engaging Iran in efforts to resolve the Syrian civil war. Iran's backed Sh'ia government in Iraq discriminatory policies towards Iraqi Sunnis were major catalysts in alienating the Sunni population in Iraq. These two facts are major factors in the rise of ISIL in Iraq and Syria. There is no official declared cooperation between the west, their Arab allies from one side and Iran in another side in both conflicts. In the Syrian civil war, Iran is backing the continuity of the brutal Asad's regime, whilst the West and their Arab Allies are supporting a regime change. In the fights against ISIL, defeating ISIL is in the interest of both sides and that what they are engaging in doing through military actions without any declared coordination. The differences regarding the post conflicts visions of the two sides make any cooperation difficult or at least announcing any cooperation is inconvenient for both parties.
Iran - Israel relations: Israel scepticism about the nuclear deal could be explained by the strong hostile statements by the Iranian officials towards Israel. Israel should be considered as the logical target if there is any Iranian nuclear programme. Israel states that its security is the main gate to any resolution to Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The main security concerns of Israel are from groups with ties to Iran. Would Iran be prepared to engage in talks with Israel as part of boosting the Middle East peace process?