Policy Alert: Iran Nuclear Deal Sparks Reactions from Rising Powers
Last Thursday, the 18-month-long negotiations between the UN Security Council plus Germany (P5 + 1) and Iran finally reached a framework agreement designed to curtail the Iranian nuclear program in return for the lifting of sanctions against the country. President Barack Obama called the deal a “historic understanding” between Washington and Tehran, urging Congress, U.S. allies in the Middle East, and the Iranian regime to work toward a final agreement by a June 30 deadline. In this Policy Alert, we examine commentary from China, Russia, India, South Korea, Japan, and Brazil on the Iran nuclear deal.
- The nuclear deal with Iran was “also good for boosting relations between China and the United States“, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said in a telephone call with US Secretary of State John Kerry. China and the United States, both taking on major responsibilities in safeguarding the international nuclear non-proliferation system, maintained good contact with each other during the negotiations, while instilling “positive energy” into bilateral relations, according to Wang.
- “The deep-rooted cause of the Iranian crisis is a lack of political trust between Tehran and Washington, while prospects for a final solution remain murkier, factoring in the tremendous domestic pressure from both Iran and the United States,” observed Xinhua editor Yamei Wang.
- Xinhua writer Ma Mengli applauded China for its active participation in the negotiations and for putting forward “constructive proposals at many critical junctures of the talks.” Noting that a “significant step in the right direction has been made,” Ma added that “it is imperative now to lose no time in pushing ahead with the negotiations and displaying the utmost sincerity in order to clinch a final agreement that provides a comprehensive and final solution.”
Reactions to the deal in Russia were largely positive, in part due to the large potential economic gains Russia will see as a result of the deal.
- The lifting of sanctions against Iran will allow Tehran to make full payments on its deal with Russia’s Rosatom State Nuclear Energy Corporation, bringing in billions to the Russian budget Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told Rossiya Segodnya news agency’s director general, Dmitry Kiselev, in an exclusive interview on Monday.
- In Moscow, the Russian Foreign Ministry said the framework nuclear agreement will havepositive impact on the situation in the Middle East. “There is no doubt that agreements on Iran nuclear program will have a positive impact on the overall security situation in the Middle East, including the fact that Tehran will be able to take a more active part in the resolution of a number of existing regional problems and conflicts,” RIA Novosti quoted the ministry as saying.
- The success of talks between the UN Security Council’s permanent members plus Germany became a “victory for everybody and proved that international mechanisms really work,” according to Russian Federation Council’s International Affairs Committee head Konstantin Kosachev.
- Alexander Golts, deputy editor of online newspaper Yezhednevny Zhurnal questioned the deal in the Moscow Times, asking, “How can the international community guarantee that the Ayatollah will not use the agreement as a breather before quickly reversing course, building atomic weapons and making Iran immune to future attack or external pressures?”
- “”Reaching an agreement on Iran’s nuclear problem was a matter of honor for the U.S., because the economic blockade of Iran should be ended under guarantees that Tehran will not develop nuclear weapons and threaten American ally Israel. The EU supported the United States. Moscow, in its turn, wanted the sanctions against Tehran to be lifted in order to develop trade and economic relations with Iran. So, all sides in the negotiations were interested in the positive result of negotiations,” stated Alexey Malashenko, scientific council member at Moscow Carnegie Center.
Indian newspapers welcomed the nuclear agreement, focusing on potential benefits for India, including its oil trade with Tehran.
- The Hindustan Times hailed the nuclear deal as “historic” and “transformative,” but raised some concerns. “All this can still be scuttled by intransigent politicians in the U.S. Congress. The world hopes that they will rise beyond partisan politics and look at the bigger picture…The alternative, as Mr. Obama implied, is either war or a nuclear arms race in West Asia. Backing the deal is a no-brainer.”
- The Hindu welcomed the agreement as “a significant breakthrough that will have long-lasting implications globally… [and] ease the long-standing hostile ties between the U.S. and Iran eventually helping to change at least some equations in the conflict-ridden West Asian region.”
- The Pioneer commented that the agreement “will bring much benefit to India,” as the country now can resume its oil trade with Tehran, its second-largest oil supplier until 2006, before Western sanctions were put in place.
- “Cheering the march towards a final nuclear settlement will be India, which will gain from the easing of sanctions on Iran and the corresponding benefits of unhindered oil imports from the latter,” predicted Sreeram Caulia, Professor and Executive Director of the Centre for Global Governance and Policy at the Jindal School of International Affairs, Jindal Global University. “Unlike Israel and Sunni Arab countries, India does not accept the vilification of Iran as a ‘terrorist state’. Instead, we appreciate Tehran for countering Sunni jihadist fundamentalism that threatens India in its extended neighborhood.”
- Given the uncertainty of the deal’s success and the continuing instability in the Middle East, India “cannot depend on the resumption of supply from Iran,” The Business Standard argued. “Solutions such as asking the U.S. to step in are naïve given that the U.S. does not and is unlikely to permit oil exports. Reviving India’s relations with Russia may be a more practical (and cheaper) solution. In fact, that is exactly what China has done.”
Media outlets in South Korea debated the implications of the Iran deal for the North Korean nuclear negotiation.
- “Now, it is time for the five permanent UNSC members to focus on North Korea,” argued theDong-A Ilbo, urging President Barack Obama to “extend his hand to the North.” “Now that the Iran nuclear deal has left him with more room, he should now turn his eyes to North Korea. Just as his administration agreed to normalize relations with Cuba through secret negotiations, it should now have a change of thoughts to attract Pyongyang to the negotiating table even with secret contacts.”
- The Hankyoreh emphasized that following the Iranian deal, “North Korean nuclear talks must quickly begin,” and that the South Korean government “must lead” on a dialogue with the North by building upon the existing six-party framework.
- “The remaining nuclear challenge is North Korea,” declared the JoongAng Ilbo. “Obama could have a diplomatic trifecta if he can solve the North Korean nuclear crisis after normalizing relations with Cuba and settling the Iran nuclear problem.”
- The Korea Times offered a rather pessimistic view. “Despite -or rather because of- the nuclear breakthrough with Iran, it could become even more difficult to resolve the North Korean nuclear crisis in part because Pyongyang may demand the same flexible conditions as those which the ‘five-plus one’ group has allowed for Tehran and because President Barack Obama will be busy selling the Iran deal to his opponents in and outside of the U.S.”
Japanese newspapers commended the nuclear agreement, but remained cautious about its implementation.
- The Yomiuri Shimbun welcomed the agreement as “an important milestone to prevent nuclear proliferation in the Middle East,” but argued that the final comprehensive deal, expected at the end of June, must create a system in which the international community can “constantly keep an eye on Iran.”
- “The United States must have a balanced policy on Middle East affairs,” the Yomiuri added, as U.S. allies, including Israel and Saudi Arabia, “have expressed caution about Iran’s expanding international role” while Americans seek cooperation with Iranians on the nuclear issue, as well as the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant militant group.
- The Sankei Shimbun also argued that the U.S. need to “seek understanding” from its Middle Eastern allies about the nuclear deal, and that compromise is “by no means acceptable” on the issue of “unconditional and comprehensive” monitoring on Iran’s nuclear facilities.
The framework deal was met with general approval in Brazil.
- Itamaraty, the Brazilian foreign ministry, released a statement celebrating the framework agreement. The statement “saluted the disposition of the governments of Iran and the P5+1… to persevere in their efforts to reach a satisfactory agreement for all parties.” The statement went on to reiterate the Brazilian government’s position that “there is no alternative to a negotiated solution to this issue” and that the agreement be fully used “to arrive at a long-lasting solution.”
- In an editorial, Tribuna Hoje criticized the way the deal was reached, noting that in 2010, Brazil and Turkey had negotiated a deal more far-reaching that was “sabotaged by Western countries.” It further went on to argue that the new, inferior deal was evidence that former president Lula was correct that the Brazil-Turkey deal was rejected because “they (rich countries) don’t want a new actor.”