Despite the hysteria with which those politically opposed to US President Barack Obama have reacted to the 14 July nuclear agreement with Iran, the reality is that it is an excellent move, which brings with it the promise of not simply the continuation of a period of moderate oil prices, but a more stable environment in a very volatile region. Iran’s misfortunes arrived in 1979, when Ayatollah Khomeini took charge of the country from an ailing Shah of Iran. In subsequent years many in Iran grew nostalgic about the past, immured as they were in the hell created by the Ayatollah, who worked feverishly to turn a modern country and a moderate people into a replica of 17th century feudalism. In particular, Khomeini adopted a vicious and confrontational line with Israel, throwing to the winds the Persian tradition of respect for the Jewish community, and began funding and developing a host of organisations solely on the premise that they sought the demise of the only Jewish state in the world, which was formed in 1948. Had the neighbours of Israel accepted the state, which was confined to borders incredibly small, they would have emerged as winners. Instead, in 1948 and 1967, they launched wars, which resulted in their utter defeat at the hands of Israel, and the more than doubling of the territory of that state. Hopefully, now that the nuclear deal has been agreed to, Iran will return to the traditional Persian policy of respect for the Jewish community and eschew the self-defeating vitriol spewed in abundance by Khomeini, who was responsible for much of the sufferings of the people he forcibly led. His successor, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has acted wisely in allowing President Hassan Rouhani to proceed with the deal worked out between Iran and the US, the EU, Russia and China.
Despite their impressive access to information, US policymakers have been guilty of serial misjudgement, especially in West Asia and in North Africa. However, now that he has shed the baggage of the Clinton team foisted on him during his entire first term in office and into the start of his second, Obama has come into his own, and is creating history. He threw into the wastebasket the senseless isolation of Cuba, and is in the process of establishing formal ties with that country, aware that such a process would lead to the country adopting a mode of governance better suited to the 21st century than the Soviet-style construct which has stifled the people of that island for over half a century. Obama has acted wisely with Iran too, a country too big and too consequential to either contain or ignore. Under President Hassan Rouhani, Iran has made impressive strides towards adopting a normal policy towards the rest of the world rather than the almost paranoidal paths of Khomeini. Both Rouhani as well as his Foreign Minister, Jawad Zarief, deserve praise for the way in which they have secured for their country a much brighter future than would have been the case, had the confrontational line of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad been continued. It helped that in Obama, they had a US head of state not anchored to the mistakes of the past, and not in thrall to the myth of omnipotence which has led Washington into so many costly adventures across the globe. The nuclear deal with Iran is to be welcomed, and the international community now needs to engage vigorously with that country, so that once again the modern, moderate ethos and spirit of the Persian people emerges from the dark shadows of the Khomeini past.