Elections have consequences, even in Iran’s crazy system of a troupe of clerics routinely throwing out candidates who don’t meet some arbitrary standard of political or religious reliability. Yet even with that, the election of Hassan Rouhani last year has clearly shown that the people of Iran were ready for a change.
The international sanctions on Iran for its rogue nuclear program were hurting, and the public had enough. At the same time, pride in nuclear progress — ostensibly for peaceful generation of power — was another pull on public opinion in Iran, in the wrong direction.
This is the kind of mix of purposes and influences that led to a significant agreement between the United Nations powers and Iran to restrict the military potential of the nuclear development in the country.
It is hardly the deal that the United States alone would have wanted, given various concessions on the technical side by the European-led team. If President Barack Obama is right to be pleased with the progress marked by this deal, it does not of itself eliminate the potential for weapons development.
What it does is halt the developments most worrisome to the U.N. powers and provides for Iranian leaders a face-saving way to agree to the deal, for which they get some easing of oil trading sanctions.
Thoughtful critics will find a lot missing in terms of “thou shalt nots” for Iran. Even Obama — who is devoted to the use of words like “unprecedented” to describe his administration — warns that hard bargaining lies ahead for a permanent deal that could bring Iran’s economy into the 21st century.
Still, despite the unreliability of Iran’s political system, the fact is that politics is at work here. The clerical “supreme leader” of Iran has given Rouhani and his fellows the latitude to make a deal. The long-suffering ordinary citizens of Iran are restive, and even those officials believing that they rule by anointment have to take heed.
Here is a real possibility for a peaceful resolution of a dangerous crisis. Hard bargaining is justified, but may lead to a better outcome that many skeptics of the proposed deal would have predicted even a year ago.