Iran has long been frozen out of the world economy for its contested atomic research and activity.
But in mid-January, economic sanctions were lifted after the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN’s nuclear surveillance organization, announced that Iran had complied with its side of the July 2015 accord.
The accord — struck with China, Russia, France, Great Britain, Germany and the United States — offered Iran relief from economic sanctions amounting to $110 billion a year and the opportunity to re-enter to the global economy, in exchange for stopping its quest for a nuclear weapon, according to Al Jazeera.
According to the New York Times’ guide to the deal, the country was required to reduce its stockpile of uranium and plutonium and the ability to put these elements to use in its weapons. The goal of the deal was to prevent Iran from creating a nuclear weapon, or at least to stop it from being able to get one quickly.
The accord extended Iran’s nuclear “breakout” time — the amount of time it would take to produce enough bomb-grade material for a singular nuclear weapon — to at least one year.
According to the White House, the deal that lifted sanctions will slow Iran’s chances of obtaining a bomb.
One key element of the lifting of sanctions is that it will allow Iran to reclaim its share of the world oil market.
Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh told Al Jazeera that Iran plans to double its crude oil exports and the country will begin exporting an additional 500,000 barrels of oil a per day within six months.
This increase in oil exportation prompted many questions and predictions about possible effects on the US economy.
Al Jazeera anticipates that the price of oil will drop further in the world market. The United Arab Emirates’ energy minister said in Abu Dhabi last Monday that any extra supply of crude oil would harm the market.
Haideh Salehi-Esfahani, a principal lecturer in the Department of Economics at the University of Washington, said she thinks the effects on the U.S. economy will be minimal. Because Iran is not a huge trading partner for the United States, partners like China will likely outshine it.
“In terms of oil prices… increased production can only drive prices lower.” said Salehi-Esfahani. “But the oil industry is only one sector among many.”
Although producers of oil in the United States may suffer economic losses, consumers will benefit from the lower gas prices said Salehi-Esfahani.
Additionally, BBC predicts that Iran will see a boost in its economy and employment.
Iranians, especially youth, have experienced a high rate of unemployment as a result of the economic sanctions, said Salehi-Esfahani. An explosive growth in population, an increase in upper-level education, and the unemployment rates have set the stage for Iranian youth to be big supporters of the nuclear deal, according to The Huffington Post.
In 2015, Iran’s unemployment rate was estimated at between 10 and 12 percent with rates for youth soaring up around 25 percent. Theoretically, the foreign investment brought by the release from economic sanctions will increase amount of jobs available.
“This will definitely improve their lives, at least that is the hope,” said Salehi-Esfahani.
The mobilization of Iranian youth could also be a boost for Iran’s social and political reformists. With youth representing more than 60 percent of 80 million Iranians, could the release from economic sanctions further empower the increasingly educated generation’s attitude of rebellion against the social and political order.
Majid Rafizadeh — an author, political scientist, human rights activist, public speaker and TV commentator on U.S. foreign policy and the Middle East — grew up living in both Iran and Syria.
In the article “Iran’s sanctions lifted: What it means to me” Rafizadeh discusses how Iran’s release from sanctions may affect the interactions between Iranian-Americans and those living in Iran.
“Will the lifting of sanctions mean that American and Iranian-American citizens can visit Iran, one of the oldest civilizations, without the fear of being detained? Will Iran and the U.S. open embassies in Washington and Tehran? Will many Iranians be able to visit the country of their dreams soon?” ponders Rafizadeh.
Although the answers to these questions remain unclear, Rafizadeh cautiously dreams of the possibility of being able to see his mother one more time before she passes away.
The lifting of Iran’s economic sanctions provides a glimmer of hope for the building of a socio-cultural bridge that will ease geopolitical and strategic complexities between Iran and the United States.