The Financial Express

Silver lining in US-Iran relations

| Updated: October 20, 2017 23:22:36

Silver lining in US-Iran relations
Since President Barack Obama has addressed the nation on January 13, Iran released four convicted Americans in exchange for seven Iranians held on charge of violating sanctions against Iran. This is not the first time Obama traded off prisoners with others. In May, 2014, he released five Taliban detainees from Guantanamo Bay prison in exchange for US army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl held captive by the Taliban, courtesy of Qatar. Oman was behind the scene for release in 2011 of three American backpackers who had inadvertently strayed across an unmarked stretch of Iran-Iraq border and were promptly arrested by Iran as American spies. Similarly, Obama traded in December of 2014 three Cuban spies in exchange for Alan Gross, an American contractor accused of spying in Havana. 
President Ronald Reagan and President Bill Clinton applied diplomacy to get US prisoners released. Last but not least, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu traded off imprisoned Palestinians with his own people. In 2011, Israel freed 1,000 Palestinians including some linked to terrorism for Sgt Gilad Shalit who had been held by the Hamas for five years. 
Against this trade-off, UN nuclear watchdog International Atomic Energy Agency came out with a certification on January 15, 2016 that Iran has met all of its obligations with regard to comprehensive nuclear deal signed in May of 2015. IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano said relations between Iran and the IAEA has now entered a new phase. 
This certification will help Iran recoup assets worth about $100 billion frozen overseas and enjoy unfettered economic benefit in dealing with oil and gas worldwide. Iran's assets overseas were frozen at the initiative of the US administration following the seizure of the US embassy in Tehran and hostage of American workers for 442 days in 1979.The US agreed to pay $1.7 billion to settle a 1981 claim over payments for military equipment that was never delivered. 
The UN also imposed sanctions on Iran since the closure of the US embassy in Tehran in violation of the Vienna convention of consular relations of 1961. Recently the UN also imposed sanction on Iran for violating a UN resolution for testing missile. Similarly, the Obama administration announced sanctions on individuals and some small companies accused of shipping crucial technologies to Iran, including carbon fibre and missile parts. 
 Obama took strenuous efforts, courtesy of Oman, to bring leaders of Iran to the negotiating table to sign a comprehensive deal on nuclear weapons.  Iran, a signatory to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, is possibly the only country on earth to have been subjected to submission to the world powers on getting rid of nuclear arms. But countries like North Korea, Israel, India and Pakistan remain untouched. North Korea is the only country to have backed out of the Treaty and continues developing nuclear weapons. 
Obama in a message to the nation on January 17 hailed diplomacy in making Iran nuclear arms-free and added that four Americans were freed from being wrongfully imprisoned and are on their way home. Iran accepted unprecedented monitoring of its activities. Hasan Rouhani, moderate President of Iran, said in a speech, the legs of Iran's economy are now free of the chains of sanctions, and it's time to build and grow. According to the Washington Times of January 19, "among the very first fruits of the nuclear deal European aircraft giant Airbus announced that it has a deal to sell 114 planes to Iranian state carrier Iran air at $10 billion." Similarly, Daimler, German car maker, signed agreement with Iranian Khodro, the biggest car manufacturer in the Middle East, for a comprehensive re-entry into the Iranian market, 
 Swapping of prisoners plus signing of comprehensive a nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers, including the US is likely to herald a window of detente between Washington and Tehran. 
The writer is a retired Bangladeshi diplomat

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