If you have ever met an Iranian, you are probably well aware that we are an emotionally expressive lot and as news broke out that a nuclear deal was imminent, thousands flooded the already deathly-congested streets of Tehran, characteristically holding traffic to a standstill to celebrate this new possibility, a new spring. The feeling amongst Iranians is enormous relief.
In Tehran, it had reached a point where we had become immune to comically bad news. We casually make fun of our dire economic conditions by circulating jokes and memes to loved ones, reveling in dark humor, trying to take some sort of comfort in our position as the world’s misfit.
This good news thing is something we are going to have to get used to; looking back, I cannot personally remember a time where there has been a pronounced sense of collective happiness amongst Iranians. An exception being the public celebrations after we faced Argentina in the World Cup. And even those celebrations were after we lost the game.
This is not to say that the Iran Deal is in anyway a losing deal for Iranians. It is not. Yet, we could have got here sooner and without the hardship. Conditions will not change overnight but I predict that once they do, it will be transformational for the lives of ordinary Iranians, who will be able to trade internationally and transfer money abroad.
Hopefully, Iran will no longer be blocked from using the Swift system for international banking. It will mean a dramatic curtailing of an entrenched system of money laundering. It will mean we wont have to be reduced to bartering with our natural resources. The significance of which cannot be understated.
At present, the Central Bank of Iran sets two exchange rates against the dollar. A more competitive rate for companies wishing to import goods and the one which everyone else uses to buy dollars inside the country. In order to import from any business abroad, a complex mechanism is set into motion, which involves strategically unlocking foreign reserves across banks that have dared to host Iranian assets. However, many businessmen routinely overstate their costs for the goods they import, in order to unlock more funds and keep a proportion in foreign banks to then re-sell at the higher rate exchange rate.
Transforming this mechanism and countless others that have been reinforced by sanctions will begin to make Iran’s economy fairer and more transparent. It will stop predatory, corrupting elements from abusing their influence and it will mean a far more favorable environment for enterprise.
As foreign investors line up to do business and diplomatic relations begin to normalize, there will be less of a need to assert military might and more to lose by engaging in fiery rhetoric.
As Iran begins to re-engage with the world as a partner, other countries will be in a better position to discuss human rights violations. It is a win-win outcome for the countries involved in the negotiations.
However, clearly not every country was involved. There are the critics who are still betting that the deal will collapse. Their agenda is transparent and is representative of their zero sum out of date outlook. Most would agree that they have lost their bet and in the process, their right to be a part of a powerful global partnership.
Those who doubt the success of the deal, need only to watch videos of the swathes of people who congregated, or more importantly, were allowed to congregate at the airport to give Zarif a hero’s welcome on arrival from Lausanne. It was an opportunity to thank him personally, and I wish I could have been there too because the nature of these sanctions are such that they feel deeply personal.