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Society & Culture

“No miracles but signs of real hope”

July 15, 2015
Shima Shahrabi
6 min read
“No miracles but signs of real hope”
“No miracles but signs of real hope”

“No miracles but signs of real hope”


Ahmad Shirzad, a university professor and former member of parliament, has been a persistent critic of Iran’s nuclear program. He holds a Ph.D. in elementary particles physics, and his expertise in the field led him to become one of former President Ahmadinejad’s early critics. He was particularly critical when Ahmadinejad boasted about Iran’s nuclear achievements, which Shirzad said were greatly exaggerated.

Shortly after the announcement that an agreement had been reached in Vienna, IranWire talked to him about his take on the accord.


What is your overall evaluation of the agreement?

The full text of the agreement needs a thorough and lengthy review. The main points on which Iran and the countries on the other side have agreed are more or less known. Iran accepts limitation on its nuclear program in a way that will convince the great world powers and the International Atomic Energy Agency that the program has no military goals. In return, tough sanctions, including those imposed by the UN Security Council, will be lifted. Iran will no longer be subject to measures stipulated in Chapter VII of the UN Charter [“Action with Respect to Threats to The Peace”].

These are good concessions for Iran. Of course there is a long period of verification ahead that might seem worrisome. But I believe that if Iran follows a path of mutual understanding and the other side reduces its intense hostility towards Iran — a hostility that is often really irrational — we can hope that this period of verification might be shortened, or that it will become less important in determining international relations.

Why do you think this period for verification is so long?

It is clear the writers of the agreement suffer from a shortcoming, which all human beings suffer from. They cannot see into the future. So each one of them has tried to write the agreement with the worst possible scenario in mind. The worst scenario might or might not happen. But what we can foresee through political analysis is that Iran is not going toward further extremism. Iran tried extremism under Ahmadinejad and it set the country back.

This of course does not mean that there are no extremists in Iran. They are a powerful group with their own media. They can do a lot of things, but the general direction of Iranian society and its leadership goes toward more moderation. If this prediction is valid, then there is hope that the considerable mistrust of the past will diminish, and many provisions in the text of the agreement will not be needed. Of course, they can be always used for leverage. But there is a difference between leverage and actually using it to apply pressure.

Hardliners in both Iran and the US Congress are opposed to the agreement. How do you think this opposition will affect how it is implemented?

The two groups always act in concert. The effect is to slow down the process. I think that, for the moment, we have passed that point. Even before this announcement, it could predicted that after the agreement was signed, a new atmosphere would be established in which neither Iranian hardliners nor the rightist hardliners of the US Congress would be able to play a serious role.

With Obama categorically saying that he would not let the agreement be revoked and he would use his veto power if necessary, I think their opposition does not have enough weight. They can cast a shadow over the process and throw stones, but I think it unlikely that their opposition will seriously affect anything. In Iran, the people have enthusiastically welcomed the agreement and, as a result, the Iranian hardliners have become more isolated.

All these years you were a critic of Iran’s nuclear program. Now that there is an agreement after 10 years, how do you feel?

There are ups and downs in the destiny of any nation. Part of Iranian society and a section of its leadership were under the illusion that with the nuclear industry we could ascend to heaven, and that it would open doors to power and respect. But having some knowledge about the topic, I always warned that they were exaggerating Iran’s achievements, and that they would not bring us any real gains.

Fortunately, this phase is now past. Everybody is aware that what they call the “nuclear industry” carries many political risks and brings about unfavorable international reactions. Without building trust with the international community, we cannot achieve the peaceful goals that have always been Iran’s objective.

In what direction is the Iranian nuclear program headed now?

I believe that after the political dust is settled, those involved must sit down and come up with a new plan. We started this in the atmosphere of 20 or 30 years ago. But it is a different environment now. We cannot get anywhere with the so-called traditional nuclear technology. I believe that the question of enrichment does not play a significant role in securing national interests. Now we are committed to reducing it. Therefore, we must concentrate on those areas of nuclear technology that do not involve such issues and can actually bring us more positive results. This is a domestic Iranian issue, not an international one. We really have to decide what path can make our nuclear technology more effective and beneficial.

Many people are hoping for economic and social changes. How much change do you see ahead?

I breathe and live in the same atmosphere as these people. And I have noticed a much more mature attitude than we have seen before. Those active in the market know that the agreement is not going to perform miracles. Of course, this is the beginning of a positive environment. But if we compare it to the excitement after the UN Resolution 598 [which ended the Iran-Iraq war], it is very different, and society is treating it more rationally. Anyway, in the short term, the psychological effects of the lifting of sanctions can be very positive.

It has been predicted that in the coming weeks or months we will be witness to many [trade] agreements. Commerce will improve. One of the most important sanctions — the lifting of which would have very good results — is to do with SWIFT [the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications] and other banking transactions. Altogether, the economy will pick up speed. But this does not mean we will have a speedy economic growth. Economic growth takes time. But in the next six months, we will move towards a normalization of economic relations. If at that time the Iranian economy is managed correctly, we can take serious steps towards growth.


Related Articles: 

"Israel needs to stop being so negative"

Hardliners: "Nuclear deal is a false victory"


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