Friday, 29 November 2013
Iran Yields To The Wests Demand On Nuclear Issue, by Akbar E Torbat
Iran Yields To The Wests Demand On Nuclear Issue, by Akbar E Torbat
29 November, 2013
After investing about forty billion dollars in its nuclear facilities, Iran has agreed to nearly shutting them down. This has been done quietly since the new government of President Hassan Rouhani took over in August 2013. Some opposition groups see Rouhani as the West's stooge who tries to abandon Iran's nuclear program in exchange for the West's support for the survival of the clerical regime in Tehran. To downgrade Iran's nuclear activity, Rouhani has combined the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran with the Power Ministry. The daily Kayhan reported on November 20, 2013, nearly all the IAEA requests in Geneva meetings had been already implemented since Rouhani took over and practically most of Iran's nuclear facilities were almost shutdown.
As has been reported by the Associated Press, for sometime a series of secret talks had been going on behind the scenes between the US and Iran in Oman and elsewhere, and Sultan Qaboos of Oman had played a role as go-between in these talks. The Deputy Secretary of State, William Burn, and Jake Sullivan, a foreign policy advisor to Vice President Joe Biden, had met at least five times with the Iranian officials.  The secret talks paved the way for the official negotiations to finalize an agreement on the nuclear issue. The multilateral negotiations took placed in Geneva in three rounds between Iran and the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and Germany, the so-called P5+1. After completion of the third round in Geneva on November 23, 2013, a temporary agreement was signed. The official texts of the agreement and its attachment have not been released. The Fars News Agency posted a text that was not in consistent with the White House's Fact Sheet released a few hours later. Here are the key items of the Fact Sheet:
Iran has agreed to stop enriching uranium beyond 5 percent; a level that would be sufficient for energy production, and would dismantle links between its networks of centrifuges. The agreement does not require Iran to stop enriching uranium, or to dismantle any of its existing centrifuges. However, its stockpile of uranium enriched to 20 percent level would be diluted or converted into oxide so that it could not be readily used for medical purposes and its stockpile of 3.5% low enriched uranium would not increase. Iran has agreed not to install any new centrifuges, start up any that are not already operating or build new enrichment facilities. Also Iran has agreed not to produce fuel for the heavy water reactor it is building in Arak. Iran has agreed to technically disable its nuclear activity at least for six month. Furthermore, Iran has accepted what previously was called Additional Protocol, according to which, IAEA inspectors can inspect any locations related to the Iranian nuclear activity at any time they deem necessary.
The red line for Iran has been to preserve its nuclear capability, but not to manufacture nuclear weapons. Iran's red lines include not halting uranium enrichment, not to close the Fordow facilities and the Arak Heavy Water reactor construction, and not to let the enriched uranium out of Iran. The red line for the Western powers has been any capacity that can enable Iran to manufacture nuclear weapons.
Iran Gets “peanuts” In Return
Iran receives a very small portion of its own money in return for practically shutting down its nuclear facilities. The United States facilitates about $7 billion in sanctions relief. Iran's frozen foreign exchange assets in foreign financial institutions is about $100 billion. Iran receives only $4.2 billion of its oil sales, nearly $15 billion of its revenues during this period will go into restricted overseas accounts, and $400 million from the restricted Iranian funds is to be transferred to educational institutions in third countries to pay for the Iranian students' tuitions.  Except for some minor matters, the sanctions will largely remain intact, and only will not increase. This limited sanctions relief is done by President Barack Obama's executive order, which does not require the approval of the Congress. In reality, the sanctions had already reached to the point of diminishing return and even being negative, which means they were squeezing the economies of the Western countries more than Iran.
Because Iran's right to enrichment was not acknowledged in the agreement, all the previous sanctions for Iran's enriching uranium, including the UN sanctions will remain in place. After the agreement was signed, the US Secretary of State John Kerry and the British Foreign Secretary William Hague both said Iran's right to enrich uranium was not recognized in the agreement. The United States has disputed Iran's right to uranium enrichment under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Under Article IV of the NPT, each non-nuclear state has the right to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. Since the text of the Treaty does not explicitly indicate enrichment, it has been disputed in the negotiations.
Reactions in Iran
On November 20, three days before the agreement was reached in Geneva, the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei gave a strong speech in front of his top military commanders and about 50,000 heads of Basij (volunteer) militia. He lashed out at the Western imperialists and summarized some historical facts, including their roles in wars and slave trades, and the US dropping of two atomic bombs on Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Khamenei repeated his previously stated phrase “heroic softness” to pretend he is not yielding and to save his face. Khamenei said "We do insist that we will not step back a bit from our rights". While “I do not intervene in the details of these talks, there are certain red lines and limits that have to be observed. They [Iran's nuclear negotiators] are instructed to abide by those limits." Despite the strong tone of his speech, there was no response from the US officials. That meant the US officials knew that he was just preparing his military men to accept the forthcoming agreement he had secretly agreed on.
According to Kayhan, Mohammad-Hassan Asfari, a member of the Majles National Security and Foreign Policy committee and some other members of the parliament had met with the Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif at his office. They wanted to send one person from the parliament to witness the negotiations in Geneva, however Zarif had said Rouhani did not permit such participation. Zarif had said he would not give any details of the deal until an agreement was reached.
Some members of the Iranian parliament (Majles) strongly criticized the signing of such a shameful agreement. According to Articles 125 and 77 of the Iranian Constitution, agreements with foreign governments have to be approved by the Majles to be binding. The clerics have strong influence in the parliament; about forty of the members are clerics and some of the rest are either relatives of the clerics or their supporters. Some Majles members have friendly relations with London. Historically, the British have used their power of the purse to influence the Iranian parliament. That means despite wide protests from the opposition groups, the agreement may pass in the parliament.
The opposition groups were shocked by hearing the news of the agreement, which they perceived it as an outright yield on behalf of Iran. In Iran, most of the university students, labor organizations, and the secular groups do not have positive opinion of the clerics ruling Iran. In the US, the Iranian lobby organizations cheered signing of the agreement as win-win situation. However the opposition groups perceive the agreement as betraying the Iranian nation and think Iran has lost to the Western powers who themselves have the lethal weapon of the last resort. They compare the agreement to such disgraceful agreements in Iranian history as the Turkamanchai agreement in 1828 with Russia, upon which Iran lost its provinces in south Caucasus to Russia and also the 1919 agreement with Britain, upon which the then Prime Minster Hassan Vossogh-eldoleh received bribes from Britain to sign what would result in Iran becoming a British protectorate, but that agreement was eventually annulled by the Majles.
Will this agreement be annulled similar to the 1919 agreement? It remains to be seen what reactions the Iranian people, the military, the Revolutionary Guards, and the Majles will have regarding this shameful agreement.
Akbar E. Torbat (email@example.com) teaches economics at California State University, Los Angeles. He received his Ph.D. in political economy from the University of Texas at Dallas.
Notes Secret US-Iran talks set stage for nuke deal, http://www.boston.com/news/nation/washington/2013/11/24/secret-iran-talks-set-stage-for-nuke-deal/FNQofST7QKoLiJsCSmN6xM/story.html
 Fact Sheet, http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/11/23/fact-sheet-first-step-understandings-regarding-islamic-republic-iran-s-n , November 23, 2013.
 “The President or his legal representative has the authority to sign treaties, protocols, contracts, and agreements concluded by the Iranian government with other governments, as well as agreements pertaining to international organizations, after obtaining the approval of the Islamic Consultative Assembly. http://www.iranonline.com/iran/iran-info/government/constitution-9-1.html