Iran’s annual military budget is $6 billion, compared to $60 billion for Saudi Arabia and $600 billion for the U.S. 

Nathaniel Batchelder in Oklahoma City, May 20, 2015. - GARETT FISBECK
  • Garett Fisbeck
  • Nathaniel Batchelder in Oklahoma City, May 20, 2015.

Two and a half years ago, Iran’s moderate Hassan Rouhani was elected president over swaggering Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, raising hopes for improved relations.

Rouhani and his foreign minister Javad Zarif successfully negotiated the nuclear agreement signed last year with the six nations of the U.N. Security Council. As a condition for lifting sanctions, Iran agreed to regular inspections by the U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency with unprecedented access to sites of interest.

In Iran’s February elections, reformists won 30 contested parliamentary seats in the capitol. Fourteen women, all moderates, won seats across the country. Seven others are headed for late April runoff elections. Victories by moderate candidates show positive change is happening from inside Iran.

President Rouhani and his allies appeal to Iranians eager for modernization and fed up with the stagnation of the past. The 60-percent voter turnout in February’s elections reflects interest in Rouhani’s objectives of economic progress and social reform. The election results were a setback to anti-Western hardliners. They had opposed Rouhani’s negotiations for a nuclear agreement because they knew it could improve relations with Western nations and their own power would be diminished.

The potential for trade is huge. Iran has the fourth-largest oil reserves and second-largest natural gas reserves in the world. International corporations are flocking to Iran to establish trade agreements. Iran has negotiated a $27 billion deal with Europe’s Airbus for 140 civilian airliners. That sale might have gone to Boeing, had not sanctions at the time blocked U.S. trade with Iran. Eager for beef, wheat and modern technologies, the Iranian people’s desire for trade with the West looks strong.

Two-thirds of Iran’s 80 million people are under 35 years old, with no memory of the 1979 revolution or historic hostilities with the U.S. Women are now 60 percent of university students. Iran’s young adults want more civil rights, human rights, women’s rights, improved global relations and international trade.

Iran’s population is almost three times that of Saudi Arabia, but Iran spends one-tenth as much on military preparedness. Iran’s annual military budget is $6 billion, compared to $60 billion for Saudi Arabia and $600 billion for the U.S.

The improvements in relations with Iran are a vindication of the U.S. administration’s outreach and diplomacy. Congress is still understandably cautious after decades of Iranian extremism and isolation but should support efforts toward better relations. Hardliners in Iran would still welcome a reversal of the westernization and modernization they oppose.

Let us particularly take note of and celebrate the results of diplomacy instead of military action in bringing about this new day in U.S.-Iranian relations. Open trade and travel will be a win-win situation for the people of both nations.

Nathaniel Batchelder is director of The Peace House in Oklahoma City and a member of AANW, Americans Against the Next War.

Print Headline: Detente means trade with Iran

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