Author: Ruksana Kibria

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The November 2013 interim nuclear deal that was signed between the P5+1 and Iran is an epochal event, though, given the volatile situation, it may be too early to make a correct prognosis of its ramifications. For one thing, the nuclear deal could complicate the regional security environment by exacerbating Saudi-Iranian tension, though as such, it is not the source.Regardless of Saudi displeasure at the conclusion of the accord, Iran’s ascendancy is amply clear, with its ambiguous nuclear status playing a strategic role. While the dominant narrative currently is the centrality of Shia-Sunni regional tension represented by Iran and Saudi Arabia, reality is far more intricate and multi-dimensional, requiring a more nuanced appreciation of their relationship, which suggests that, for the foreseeable future it would be in the US interest to have Saudi Arabia, off-setting Iran, but from a much weaker position, in a replay of the game of balance of power achieved through sustained geopolitical manipulation, and a smaller American foot-print. The goal of Tehran’s nuclear brinksmanship is essentially ensuring its regional primacy, which accords with US interests, too. While the recent interim Iran deal apparently concerns the nuclear issue, it has far-reaching implications for the global energy market, which the relaxation of economic sanctions and the integration of Iran as a legitimate member of the international community is certain to affect. US-Iran normalisation of relations is quietly enhancing China’s role, both economic and military, in the Gulf region, whose energy resources for the foreseeable future would continue to remain crucial for Beijing. More than a reconciliation between Washington and Tehran, the essence of a real paradigm shift would involve a Saudi-Iranian accommodation, and de facto Saudi acceptance of Iran’s regional pre-eminence.