Iran and six world powers have reached an interim agreement: Iran will halt and reverse some elements of its nuclear programme for six months in return for moderate relief from the economic sanctions that have isolated the Islamic Republic.
Many hope the agreement marks a first step towards detente. It was widely hailed as "historic" and Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei supported it. But opposition to the deal, notably from Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who dubbed it a "historic mistake" and dissenting US Congress voices, came just as swiftly.
As negotiations continue over six months to reach a comprehensive agreement, Empire tracks how Iran-US relations became mired in ideological hostility and the more recent diplomatic impasse over suspicion – at times alarmist – that Iran has been covertly working on a nuclear bomb, while Tehran insists its nuclear energy ambitions are peaceful. As sanctions on Iran have increased, so too have the technical capabilities of the country's nuclear programme.
In this episode, Empire looks more deeply into the particularities of the Iran-US relationship, what the recent agreement signifies, the response from the Arab world, and we ask whether such a deal has the potential to reshape the Middle East. To understand the complexities and what lies ahead, we turn to the most illuminating voices, experts and key players in the US and in the Middle East.
We speak to Seyed Hossein Mousavian, an Iranian policymaker and scholar who had a front row seat at the 2003-2005 nuclear programme negotiations as Iran's spokesman, about sanctions and the US' changed stance on Iran.
To contextualise the deal, the opposition and to discuss if there is a shift in US foreign policy, we hear from Peter Beinart, a political writer for The Daily Beast and CUNY associate professor; Reza Marashi, the director of research at the National Iranian American Council; Barbara Slavin, a Washington DC correspondent for Al-Monitor and author of Bitter Friends, Bosom Enemies: Iran, the US and the Twisted Path to Confrontation (2007) and US diplomat Chas Freeman, who served as ambassador to Saudi Arabia during Desert Shield and Desert Storm.
We go on to unpack the geopolitical implications of the deal and in Washington, DC, we speak to Haleh Esfandiari, an academic and the Middle East Program director at the Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars.
In Tehran, we talk to Payam Fazlinejad, a writer for the leading conservative newspaper, Kayhan, and Emad Abshenass, a political analyst and former managing director of Iran Daily newspaper.
We then head to Doha where we are joined by academic Hamid Dabashi, Hagop Kevorkian professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature at Columbia University; Mahjoob Zweiri, an expert on Iran's politics and the head of the Department of Humanities at the University of Qatar; and Dr. Marwan Kabalan, a Syrian academic, writer and former Dean of the Faculty of International Relations and Diplomacy at Damascus' Kalamoon University.
Our panelists discuss the reactions and power dynamics in Iran; how this deal could lead to a redistribution of regional power and at what price; the concerns of the Arab world; and the true utility of the Iranian nuclear programme.
As we examine the agreement and its ramifications through Iran and the US: Diplomatic enrichment, Empire uncovers the complexities and big questions that lie ahead.
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