Iran effectively rejoined the international community a few days ago, as longstanding U.S. and European sanctions were lifted and the country was granted access to $32 billion of its previously frozen assets. It's the razing of the Berlin Wall all over again, as another country is opened up to the global market without any shots being fired.
But why isn't there nearly as much celebration over Iran's economic liberation as there was with the fall of the Soviet Union?
Russia even kept its nukes. In Iran's case, there's been much hand-wringing over the mere possibility it will develop nuclear weapons. Some argue that Russia isn't a rogue state but Iran is. I agree that Russia isn't a rogue state, but it was certainly portrayed as one during the Cold War era, which was rife with drills involving children hiding under their desks in the event of a Soviet nuclear attack. Could we consider the possibility that perhaps the hyperventilation and fear has been overplayed in both cases?
The difference in Western attitudes toward the Soviet glasnost and perestroika (that is, economic opening and restructuring) and today's Iran is that when the Soviet Union broke apart, there was a feeling that the communists had lost and the West had won. With Iran, there's a feeling that the Iranians are the winners, because apparently getting Uncle Sam's boot removed from your neck means that you've succeeded in screwing him over.
Why are some people so insecure as to always frame things in a binary win-lose paradigm? It's quite possible for Iran and the West to benefit equally from an economic detente.
Iran just participated in a prisoner exchange with the U.S., and last month it handed over its enriched uranium to Russia under terms of the nuclear deal with the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany. The concept of face-saving is particularly important in Iranian culture. How much more could be asked of Iran right now?
U.S. presidential candidate and international businessman Donald Trump, who's made it clear that he thinks the Iran deal is horrible, has expressed discontent that one of the first economic overtures Iran made after the lifting of sanctions was to Europe's aerospace consortium, Airbus, for 114 new commercial aircraft. The loser in that deal would be American competitor Boeing, which had lobbied against the tightening of sanctions on Iran.
Look, you can't act harshly toward a country for years, then demand that it do business with you -- particularly in a free market. The whole idea of free trade is that you get to choose who you want to deal with. Business deals are like marriages: Once you're engaged in one, the actions of your partner will largely determine whether you're happy or miserable. And you definitely want to avoid getting hitched to a control freak who's going to tighten the screws the moment the honeymoon is over -- or grant a higher regulatory power (a mother-in-law, for instance) the authority to hold your relationship hostage.
Some people are already complaining that lifting sanctions and granting Iran access to previously frozen money will mean that it has more to spend on weapons and "exporting terrorism." But Iran doesn't throw its weight around anywhere except in the Middle East, which isn't exactly full of choirboys unequipped to fend for themselves.
Besides, the "exporting terrorism" fear hasn't stopped the sale of billions of dollars in U.S. and European military equipment to Saudi Arabia, a genuine exporter of terrorism. That country's support of the so-called "Syrian rebels" gave rise to the Islamic State terrorists, who are now being targeted most effectively by Russia, with critical assistance from ... Iran.
Misconceptions and double standards currently abound in the Iran situation, with hot takes by pundits and political candidates distorting the truth. I've even heard some say that U.S. President Barack Obama is "giving" the Iranians money, or that Iran will simply spend its newfound windfall on bombs or terrorists.
Maybe everyone should just give it a rest for awhile and focus on trying to make some money.