Iran and G5+1 group of countries have finally signed the nuclear accord. It is only for the period of six months with further negotiations to follow in future. There will be immediate relief for Iran by way of release of about $7 billion frozen in the bank accounts by way of sanctions. In turn Iran has pledged to stop efforts developing weapon grade uranium, reducing the concentration of uranium in stock which has potential to be processed to weapon grade stuff and halt development of heavy water reactor at Arak which again has potential to develop weapon grade plutonium.
Iran will give access to the International community of nuclear experts to access all its nuclear plants and establishments for day to day inspections to keep all these facilities under constant surveillance. It will be just to ensure that Iran is not abrogating the nuclear accord. By mid December Iran will be able to have access to the funds lying inaccessible and import essential commodities.
Over the last few years from the time the sanctions were imposed on Iran and its assets in the foreign countries were frozen, Iran had faced lot of internal problems, the currency lost its value and common people had to bear the brunt. In a way these sanctions have forced Iran to come round and seek relief though negotiations. Iran has declared its intentions to undertake ambitious programme for nuclear power development and build nuclear power plants along the Persian Gulf Coast. It will start nuclear power production at the Russian built Bushehr Power Plant in about three months. There is further understanding that the spent fuel material from the plant, which has potential to be converted into weapon grade, will be returned to Russia.
For America too it is a breakthrough for freeing themselves from the Sunni Wahabi grip exercised at one end by Pakistan and on the other end by Saudi Arabia. For decades US depended on the supply of oil mainly from Saudi Arabia, in turn US offered protection to the monarchy that exercises total control on its people and the two most holy places of Islam. It in turn invested the oil money back into the US banks thereby letting US to benefit doubly. It received military aid mainly from US that kept US military production house running. On other end after intervention in Afghanistan, for over a decade American faced a counterfeit ally in Pakistan which nibbled it off and on by way of holding it at ransom and actively promoting the terrorist attacks from its soil on the US –NATO troops. American had to compromise on many counts with Pakistan. Years ago Pakistan showed active defiance of the US power and let the supply chain of the US-NATO troops from Gwadar Port to Afghanistan to be disrupted and then letting it open only after hefty ransom was paid. It was mainly from this time onwards that America pushed for breaking thaw with Iran extending the Olive branch on the contentious issue of nuclear power development. It dates back to January 2009 when the American President suggested willingness to open contacts with Iran and other untrusted countries, Pakistan excluded, and went to the extent of greeting the Iranian masses on the New Year eve in March 2009. By then the America had received conclusive proof of Osama bin Laden being housed in Pakistan under the protection of the Pakistani army. After killing Osama in May 2011 the American President went a step further. He allowed opening working level official contacts with Iranian officials. All this was done to establish an alternative route to safely pulling out of Afghanistan. It became all the while necessary to seek cooperation from Iran in the event of pull out from Afghanistan by 2014 was declared. The six months period of the present agreement with Iran coincides with the preparations and logistics of troop withdrawal. It is likely that in the next round of negotiations after six months, if Iran follows the agreement, America will offer substantial aid to Iran in lieu of withdrawal passage for the US-NATO troops. As such US have to pay through nose the ransom or a sort of protection money to Pakistan for passage along the supply route. It will be in turn paid to Iran, the amount maybe even more. US is now waiting for the safe withdrawal of troops. Then the US will press Iran for dismantling the nuclear set-up, the most vital being the centrifuges numbering about 19,000 used for concentrating uranium and the Arak heavy water plant to be converted to light water so that it cannot be used for higher concentration of Uranium.
US tilt towards Iran has come in the wake of enormous natural gas sources recently found in the North America. It is estimated around 26-53 trillion cubic metres. It can make US self-sufficient in its power requirements for decades to come. US can even be an exporter of the gas, reducing its dependence on the Saudi oil. This scenario of freedom from the Saudi oil dependence has prompted US to tilt towards the Shia Iran. It has in turn disturbed balance of power in the Sunni world. In future the Saudi oil prices are likely to come down with reduced demand from US. Although France has extended olive branch to buy Saudi oil, it is likely to exploit the situation by asking for the reduced rates.
Shia – Sunni divide
The most affected party from the nuclear accord is Saudi Arabia. Saudis found it most difficult to digest the US tilt towards Iran. Saudis consider Iran to be competing for the top place in Muslim community and taking over the leadership. Would Iran ever be able to dominate predominantly Sunni Muslim world? Why should we consider Shia and Sunnis to be the followers of the same Islam? In the opinion of the present author, the Shia and Sunni fraternity actually belong to two different religions each having entirely different outlook towards all things except the Prophet and the Holy book. The Arabs and Aryan Iran have been at loggerheads even after the advent of Islam in Iran. Iranians considering themselves Aryan descent hate the Arab domination. They are engaged in proxy war with Saudi Arabia in Iraq and Syria. While Iran has superiority over Saudi Arabia in terms of population and natural resources, export potential in diverse goods, Saudi Arabia is numerically much inferior and but for oil and have very few things to export.
At the same time the tacit support which the US and the West have accorded to the Arab spring movement has threatened the traditional monarchies in the Arab world. By rejecting the nomination on the UN Security Council seat after being declared so, Saudi Arabia has made its displeasure public and that it will no more be the US stooge on the international stage.
Pakistan fares no better than Saudis. Its economy is solely dependent on the ransom money it is extracting from US. The public opinion in US is totally against Pakistan. It is rightfully perceived as a rogue state. Average American citizen is against extending any type of support to Pakistan. If Pakistan plays villainous role during the US-NATO troop withdrawal, it will further alienate itself in the eyes of US people. US then maybe forced to stop aid of any kind to Pakistan as it had done in 1980s prior to Russian invasion in Afghanistan. With the spurt in the terrorist activities arraigned against the Pakistani army and the State, and counter pressure from Shia Iran with active backing from US and allies, Pakistan is likely to face extreme internal strife.
In the current scenario, Pakistan feel threatened due to presence of India in Afghanistan. India has assiduously pursued several constructive projects in Afghanistan and Iran. The major road project of Chabahar Port connecting Zanzar to Dilaram and its further extension to the garland loop in Afghanistan from Iran to Herat-Kabul-to Central Asian states has acquired very strategic importance even for Americans. The road at present extend to over 250 KMs and likely to be longer with further extension. For the withdrawing US-NATO troops, it can offer safe passage compared to route via FATA, Baluchistan. Although US and Pakistan have kept India out of loop in drawing the post 2014 scenario, Indian endeavour on the Chabahar-Delaram route may come as boon for the troop withdrawal. Iran can offer sufficient local protection and as such has not let the growth of Haqquani Al Quada supported terrorist groups in South-east province of Seistan adjoining Afghanistan. Although the current Congress government in India will show no courage to ask US to compensate the road passage, before the proposal is made for withdrawal along the route, India should assert its role in deciding the post 2014 scenario. It will in turn mean keeping different non-Pashtun tribal groups in Afghanistan united. If this is not done, Afghnistan will be trifurcated adding to the headache of neighbours and instability in West and South Asia. While the Shia Hazaras will lean towards Iran, Sunni Pakhtuns will collaborate with Al Quada networks supported by Pakistan. It could be real threat for India as the fury will unleash towards India.
Shia-Sunni divide has been plaguing Pakistan for long. With Iranian intervention in Afghanistan it is bound to escalate further. Before the Iran accord it could have extracted the military aid from the US to fight the Islamic terrorists. Russia is actively collaborating with Iran in the field of nuclear power technology and it has now collaborating with US to hold back nuclear technology to Iran. So American will be free to hold back all types of aid to Pakistan. Unless the Sunni terrorism shows decline in Pakistan, America will be reluctant to extend help to Pakistan after successful withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan.