Lifting of Sanctions. How Iran can Benefit .

“Relations between Iran and the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) now enter a new phase. It is an important day for the international community. I congratulate all those who helped make it a reality,” said Yukiyo Amano, the Director General of the IAEA, on Saturday.

His words tell us that Iran has completed the steps necessary – as outlined in the landmark ‘Iran-deal’, of July 2015 – to restrict the country’s nuclear programme. And that it has now, finally, led to the lifting of international economic sanctions on Iran.

In July 2015, soon after the Iran deal was signed, I had written a piece in this column saying that “As this deal could revitalise Iran’s economy now, Iran must also review and revise its foreign policy”.

Undoubtedly, Iran’s economy needs revitalisation, and the lifting of sanctions will help.

But its foreign policy too, I believe, must be revised, to ensure that Iran can have economic gains from its own neighbourhood. Specifically, from the GCC countries.

Last year, around May 2015, I had come across a very interesting article on Bloomberg Business website, while the negotiations for Iran Deal were still going on.

With an attention-grabbing title, “Never Mind Oil, Iran’s About to Shake the World Pistachio Market”, it showed that Iran may be the 7th largest producer of oil in the world, but it vies with USA to become the biggest pistachio grower!

So, maybe not on oil – as, anyway, the oil price is plummeting to dizzying depths – but on many other things that Iran produces, it could create a huge impact on world markets.

Oil and natural gas account for 82 percent of the Iran’s export revenues, but other major exports include chemicals, plastics, fruits, ceramic products and metals. And Iran’s main exports partners are China (21 percent of total exports), Japan (9.2 percent) and Turkey (9 percent). And the opening up of the European and US markets can give its economy a big boost.

But the GCC countries and many other Arab countries are concerned at the other exports from Iran. Those extremist ideologies, and the terror-mongering activities, that are destabilising the region.

Iran’s support to rebel groups in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, and, more recently, in Yemen, are working against a political togetherness, and thereby also against the region’s stable economic growth.

With many Arab countries, recently, cutting off diplomatic ties with Iran, it must realise that friendly neighbourly-relations are critical for collective growth.

Rebuilding of political relations in the neighbourhood is the much-needed catalyst for a resurgence in economic relations.

On a positive note, we can see that, even under sanctions, Iran’s economy has been the second largest in the region, after Saudi Arabia. Its gross domestic product (GDP) is ranked 28 in the world, in 2014, by the World Bank.

Saudi Arabia which was ranked 19, and United Arab Emirates, ranked 30, are the only two GCC economies among the top 30. If the readers wish to see, the World Bank report is here:

As Ramin Rabii of Turquoise Partners, an Iran-based investment firm, had said to the BBC recently, “Iran is the last, large, untapped emerging market in the world.”

According to the firm’s report, “About 65% of Iran’s population is under 35 years old, and literacy among 15- to 24-year-olds is 98%. Total adult literacy is 85%. About half of all Iranian households reportedly have internet access”.

So, with a young and well-educated consumer-base, and with a middle class that has had a taste for US goods in the days of the Shah, it won’t be long before they start importing the best and exporting the best.

But it is the exporting of radical political ideologies that it must stop.

GCC is a huge market, and by enhancing its bilateral relations, Iran can pave the way for greater trade-flows between the two. But it must first, responsibly, play its part in making the region more stable, and more stronger.