Pervez Hoodbhoy, Zohra and Z. Z. Ahmed distinguished scholar, Forman Christian College

November 25, 2013

The deal is a triumph of peace over war, of diplomacy over angry fist-shaking, and of pragmatism over ideology. Expectedly, now that attacking Iran is off the table, the Israelis and Saudis are furious. The French are a bit miffed at being denied the glory of engineering the deal. But for a violence-weary world, it's terrific news.

Perhaps the deal is too little. One wishes that Iran did not have a nuclear weapons program—the infrastructure it developed is certainly bomb-capable. In principle, Iran retains the option of exiting the NPT, throwing out IAEA inspectors, enriching its existing stock of 20 percent enriched uranium to 90 percent or beyond, building more centrifuges and cascading them, commissioning the Arak reactor and reprocessing the plutonium, and then speedily building its first nuclear weapon.

But pigs might first have to fly: If Iran ever exercises this option, it knows instant retribution will follow, the last thing President Hassan Rouhani's moderate government wants. Bent upon reversing the course set by his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Rouhani's election has changed everything.

What Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calls an "historic mistake" may well turn out to be the Obama administration's only success in Middle Eastern matters. The need of the times is to bring Iran into the fold, not isolate it. Isolation and anti-Americanism have helped Iran's backward-looking Shiite clergy at the expense of Iran's once-strong secular forces. Iran could well become the West's greatest ally in dealing with the violent Saudi-funded Takfir wal-Hijra, an al-Qaeda type of Sunni Wahabi fundamentalism that lies behind the September 11 attacks and the bloodbaths in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Syria, and Libya.