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After Iran nuclear deal, what's next?

The nuclear accord represents a transformative opportunity. For Iran to change, however, the Iranian people must demand more freedom and rights from their government, and the mullahs must relax their iron grip on society.

The accord precisely defines technical arrangements, monitoring, and sanctions relief. However, it cannot quantify the social forces of change that will be unleashed as Iran engages with the world, and the Iranian government comes under pressure to abide by international standards of universal human rights.

To support Iranians seeking Iran's social and political transformation, the international community should set up a strict regime to monitor Iran's conduct. Respecting human rights is the path toward democratic and accountable governance.

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The nuclear file has long overshadowed Iran's poor human rights record.

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According to Human Rights Watch, repressive elements within the security and intelligence forces and the judiciary perpetrate widespread abuses. Capital punishment by hanging is common. Freedom of expression is repressed. Journalists and bloggers are targeted and social media activists have been handed harsh sentences by revolutionary courts. Religious and ethnic minorities lack equal access to education and employment.

Like all people, Iranians want their political, economic, and social rights. They want to speak freely, protest peacefully, and express dissent without fear of reprisals. They thirst for unfettered access to information via the Internet.

Sanctions relief will have immediate effect. It will ease recession and allow economic gains, as Iranian consumers gain greater access to goods. It will also help reduce inflation and stabilize the rial. Lifting punitive measures on Iran's energy sector will drive down the cost of gas. Iran's economy will receive a boost from international cash transfers. Money dried up when Iran was barred from the SWIFT banking network.

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Mohammed Javad Zarif, Iran's foreign minister and lead negotiator of the nuclear accord, studied international relations at universities in San Francisco and Colorado and taught the subject at the University of Tehran. He has already shown great courage, skill and leadership stewarding nuclear talks. Reformers like Zarif should campaign for the protection and promotion of human rights with the same skill and fervor that he displayed during nuclear negotiations.

Fifteen years from now, Iran will face a fork in the road. Down one fork lies voluntary compliance with commitments in the nuclear accord. Down the other lies a decision to revitalize and weaponize the country's nuclear program.

The West hopes that ending Iran's isolation will fuel a revolution of rising expectations. In this scenario, the Islamic revolution would be sidelined by expanded economic opportunity and more accountable governance. Abiding by internationally recognized standards for universal human rights will put Iran on the path to becoming a more normal country.

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Commentary by David L. Phillips, director of the Program on Peace-building and Human Rights at Columbia University's Institute for the Study of Human Rights. He served as a senior adviser and foreign- affairs experts to the State Department. His recently published book is "The Kurdish Spring: A New Map for the Middle East."