Iran: From Pariah to Power?

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The recent swap deal between Iran and the United States reveals a new dynamic. (Image credit: Reuters)

To push for the release of five American prisoners in Iran, officials in Washington DC have agreed to release five Iranians in their custody as well as six billion dollars’ worth of frozen funds in South Korea. These funds were previously restricted due to imposed sanctions by the United States, and were important sources of oil revenue. This is due to the former Trump administration pulling the U.S out of the nuclear deal in 2018, and reinstating sanctions against Iran despite the P5+1 (U.S., Russia, China, the U.K., France and Germany) agreeing to a contradicting deal three years earlier. Trump also claimed that the P5+1’s  nuclear deal was “a horrible one-sided deal that should have never, ever been made”. Although the   recent swap deal may assist to ease tension between both countries amidst desires for a new nuclear deal, it may highlight Iran’s resilience in navigating through imposed sanctions.

Despite Iran ultimately being frozen out in global markets, its economy rebounded from the recession that occurred shortly after the enforcement of sanctions. Iran’s diversified and productive economy has displayed that it is able to advance despite the lack of trade, a highly impressive trait. This is due to its incredibly educated population as well as the country’s focus on research and development. Iran has the highest number of engineering graduates after Russia and the U.S, with 350,000 graduates annually, the figure rising every year. They also tend to work in the fields of technology as well as artificial intelligence, which is incredibly beneficial for increasing the number of startups and investment in the sector. Iran is also home to the famous Sharif University of Technology in Tehran, regarded as Iran’s “MIT.” Its graduates contribute heavily to technological advancements in the nation. Moreover, Iran’s diversified economy has helped the nation to work around sanctions, allowing manufacturing to account for a fifth of employment.

Although the influence of the United States has driven most of Iran’s previous trade partners away, it has intensified trade with other powerful countries such as Russia and China. The volume of trade between Russia and Iran is expected to reach 7.5 billion dollars by 2025, as both countries share their imposed sanctions in common. Russia also helped the country amidst a wheat shortage in 2021 and supplied billions of tons of grain to Iran. Furthermore, Iran has also signed an  agreement with a Eurasian economic union consisting of Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan. This boosts the exchange of goods, services and labor throughout its validity, and started to show results in early 2023. Iran’s relationship with China was also indicated in 2021 as both countries signed a 25 year strategic cooperation agreement, aiming to strengthen ‘political and strategic’ ties between both nations.

Written by Arash Moaref

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