On a cold autumn day, people waited for long hours at the airport to welcome the men behind the deal. Senior government officials, members of parliament and most importantly, a large crowd of ordinary Iranians were among those welcoming home Iran’s nuclear negotiating team. It was an “enriched welcome”, as one Iranian described it cheerfully.
Iranians had been closely, and nervously, following the Geneva talks over the past couple of weeks, with high expectations for positive results. They were hopeful that with the gradual lifting of the crippling international sanctions, the economy would improve and so would their living conditions.
As the officials were in line to congratulate Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and his team, hundreds of cheering crowds, carrying flowers and Iranian flags, chanted slogans: “Welcome back, hero diplomat”, “Peace be upon Mohammad, the honour of the nation is back”, “No war, no sanctions, no insult, no surrender”, “Long live Khamenei, long live Rouhani”.
While Zarif received a hero’s welcome at the airport, a newspaper report said that he had become a champion online, with his Facebook post informing his nearly 700,000 followers that a deal had been struck, receiving some 165,000 likes.
Support from higher up
Shortly after the news broke, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, in a message addressed to the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said the historic deal would “open new horizons”. He also thanked Khamenei for his support and guidance, and praised the Iranian nation’s support for his administration. “Undoubtedly, this breakthrough is the result of God’s blessings, the Leader’s guidelines and unwavering support of the Iranian nation,” he said.
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Rouhani hailed the “recognition of Tehran’s right to enrich uranium by the world powers” as one of the achievements of the deal. Khamenei in response, hailed the nuclear deal sealed between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council – US, Russia, China, UK, France – plus Germany. He thanked Iran’s negotiating team, describing their achievement as “praiseworthy”.
Interestingly, however, Basij commander Mohammad Reza Naqdi was not very optimistic: “Except for solving the problem of money circulation in international banks and the question of Iran’s oil sales, our other economic problems would not be resolved by negotiations.”
One conservative MP, Ahmad Tavakoli sounded optimistic. He said that one great wall that has been taken down is the P5+1 bowing down to Iran’s uranium enrichment right.
Several conservative outlets, however, focused on the impediments in the way of implementing the accord, saying the United States was “untrustworthy”. Reports of people’s expression of joy were reported mostly by reformist and moderate newspapers. “This is Iran. Everyone is happy,” the reformist Etemad [Pr] said in a report from cities across the country, as well as social media networks, while highlighting that many people had stayed awake through the night into Sunday morning to hear the good news.
Ghanoon daily said in an editorial column that the nuclear deal, clinched after long years of crisis, brought special joy to the people and had a positive impact on the market.
The Persian daily Iran [Pr], the mouthpiece of the government, hailed Rouhani administration’s record with this front page headline: “Overcoming the 10-year crisis in 100 days.”
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Among the nearly two dozen media outlets, conservative Kayhan and Vatan-e Emrooz papers adopted a more critical tone.
Kayhan [Pr] said the agreement had already been breached by “untrustworthy” Washington, pointing to US Secretary of State John Kerry’s assertion that nowhere in the deal is Iran’s so-called “right to enrichment” recognised.
It also echoed remarks by Iran’s supreme leader, thanking the nuclear negotiators for not bowing to “the excessive demands” of Western powers.
The headline run by Vatan-e Emrooz [Pr] read: “Zarif insists, Kerry denies”, in reference to whether Iran’s right to enrichment was stipulated in the accord.
In a press conference in Geneva after the deal was announced, Zarif insisted, “people should stop threatening to use force because that option is no longer on the table”, and the agreement recognises the “inalienable right” of Iran to be able to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes.
Kerry shot back minutes later, “This first step does not say that Iran has a right to enrichment.”
A senior Obama administration official backed up Kerry’s comments, saying flatly, “The document does not say anything about recognising the right to enrich uranium. We do not recognise their right to enrich uranium.”
The way forward
The nuclear deal is a positive first step, but will undoubtedly have critics in Iran, the US, Europe and the Middle East. We can expect even louder voices of opposition from all sides, to this accord in the coming days and weeks.
After this diplomatic victory, Iranians are now waiting to see if this agreement would have a positive impact on the economy and consequently their lives. Will it reduce inflation, unemployment and high commodity prices, and give breathing space to the lower and middle income classes?
Iranians hope that the government of “hope and prudence” will make this happen, albeit at a slower pace than they had hoped.
The Geneva talks were an historic turn for Iran’s diplomatic efforts which, after an arduous period of negotiations, were successful thanks to the skill of Iran’s negotiating team.
What remains to be done over the next six months of probation is for both sides to remain faithful to their commitments, refrain from propaganda warfare, and not yield to outside pressures in their attempts to bring this process to fruition. And let’s not forget that it always takes two to tango, or in this case, seven!
Khosrow Soltani Kaseb is a senior journalist based in Tehran.