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Opinion: No room for more mistakes in the Middle East

The negotiations between Iran and the international community are running according to schedule: The November agreement is to be implemented. But there is still much to do, says DW's Jamsheed Faroughi.

Jamsheed Faroughi, head of the Persian department of DW

Jamsheed Faroughi, head of the Persian department of DW

Now it's getting serious. The historic interim agreement reached in Geneva in November to settle the nuclear conflict with Iran will be implemented as of 20 January 2014. Tehran, Brussels and Washington have now all given the green light. Iran is holding to its new course on nuclear policy and is showing willingness to compromise after years of stonewalling in the long-stalled nuclear negotiations with the West.

The major points of this interim agreement are as follows: Iran stops enriching uranium to 20 percent; it converts the uranium it has already enriched to 20 percent into fuel rods, and it will produce no new centrifuges. In return, parts of the sanctions - for example, in the banking and insurance sector and in civil aviation - are to be canceled, and frozen oil revenues worth $4.2 billion (3.08 billion euros) are to be released. That will not happen all at once, but in installments. The first installment of $550 million will reach Tehran in early February.

What does this agreement mean for the US, for Iran and for the world community? For the US, it is a step forward in a peaceful settlement of the nuclear conflict with Iran. For President Obama it offers the historic opportunity of preventing an impending war with Iran. For the international community, it is a respite in one of the most dangerous and unstable regions of conflict. For the rulers of Iran, turning away from a nuclear policy which is anyway senseless means the return to the world community and a better political "life insurance."

Nevertheless, there's resistance on both sides which should not be underestimated. Certainly, it's unimaginable that the agreement with the West could have come about without the consent of the religious leader, Ayatollah Ali Chamenei. But the ultra-conservatives in Iran have not been speaking with one voice for a long time.

Some elements in the Revolutionary Guards are in favor of the continuation of the policy of confrontation with the West. Ahmadinejad's nuclear policy was very lucrative for many high-ranking officers in the Revolutionary Guard and increased its political influence. It's not likely to accept the new nuclear policy without resistance.

In the US too there's some dissatisfaction with the deal: 59 of the 100 senators have proposed further tightening sanctions. The adoption of new sanctions against Iran could destroy all that has been gained so far. The Iranian government has warned about that risk several times.

This interim agreement is only the beginning. For a long-term successful strategy there needs to be a realistic assessment of the situation by all concerned, well judged moves on the way forward and a lot of patience. Political short-sightedness and hasty decisions will be counter-productive. There must be no giving in to the hardliners and lobbyists. There is no room for any more mistakes in the Middle East.

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