The interior ministry, usually suspicious of uncontrolled crowds, declared the streets open for celebrations. Revellers danced past midnight. Even outside the old American embassy, the “den of spies” that had been taken over by students after the Iranian revolution in 1979, people sounded their horns. “This is the end of ‘death to America’, and the start of a rapprochement,” said a Tehran-based analyst, Ramin Mostaghim, who joined the crowds.
All sides in the negotiation insist that the accord is limited to resolving the crisis over Iran’s nuclear programme, at least temporarily. But all believe it is about much more than uranium-enrichment centrifuges and the modalities of inspections, important as these may be (see article). The potential to normalise relations between Iran and America, embittered since the revolution, could change the balance of power in the Middle East, transform America’s role and, perhaps, change the course of Iran’s politics.
During his inaugural address in 2009, Mr Obama told Iran that America “will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist”. Now after much bargaining the two sides have shaken hands—even though the ayatollahs have yet to unclench their fist at home, sheath the sword abroad or abandon their nuclear ambitions (which Iran claims are peaceful and the West says are aimed at developing the ability to make atomic weapons). If it works, the accord will contain Iran’s nuclear capability for at least 10-15 years. The hope is that, in the meantime, Iran and the region will have changed profoundly.
The most obvious consequence will be economic. Unlike its richer Gulf neighbours, Iran is not an oil-soaked rentier state, but a regional power with an industrial economy and lots of educated people who work.
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