Iran After Sanctions: An Emerging Economy Giant?

An Iranian nuclear agreement could be an economic game changer.

A final agreement is yet to be signed.  But for the first time in the decade-and-a-half-long Iranian nuclear negotiations we may have a viable deal on our hands.  By and large, the international community, including Pope Francis, has welcomed the recently announced Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPA) framework agreement, which marked the culmination of days-long, grueling 11th-hour haggling in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Forces of Fortune

Despite enduring decades of sanctions, Iran has managed to establish the Middle East’s most expansive industrial base, standing among the world’s top 15 steel producers, top 5 cement producers, and top 15 automobile manufacturers. In recent years, Iran has also ventured into cutting-edge sciences, featuring among leading countries in stem-cell research and nanotechnology.

Iran cemented its position as the leading Middle Eastern scientific power in 2012, ranking as the world’s 17th biggest producer of scientific papers, above Turkey and Israel. Its elite universities, particularly Sharif University of Technology (Iran’s MIT) and University of Tehran (Iran’s Harvard), have produced some of the most competent engineers and scientists in the world, most notably Maryam Mirzakhani, who became the first woman to win the the “Nobel Prize” of mathematics. Embracing greater connectivity, Iran has also stepped up investments in its internet infrastructure.

Iran’s sprawling industrial and scientific infrastructure, however, needs access to Western technology and capital if it is to maintain its momentum. Due to punitive sanctions, Tehran has had to reluctantly rely on a shrinking pool of (opportunistic) partners, particularly China, India, and Russia, which have made the most out of Iran’s isolation. Meanwhile, the Iranian economy has been in doldrums, despite the Rouhani administration’s damage-control reforms. No wonder, the (swift and comprehensive) removal of sanctions has been the key objective of Iran’s nuclear diplomacy. And this is why Iran has reportedly agreed to significant concessions on its nuclear program.

An Iranian nuclear agreement would be an economic game-changer, providing global investors access to one of the most promising markets in the developing world. And there has been no shortage of major Western oil and industrial companies anxious to enter the Iranian market. And there are signs that the Iranian political establishment has unified on supporting the emerging deal. But the Obama administration faces an uphill battle at home, and the negotiating parties are yet to agree on the pace and scope of any rollback in sanctions against Iran. Nonetheless, as Iranians anxiously look forward to a post-sanctions economic bonanza, we may finally have an answer to Henry Kissinger’s timeless question on whether Iran is “a nation or a cause”.

Full article: Iran After Sanctions: An Emerging Economy Giant? (The Diplomat)

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