Thursday, 28 November 2013

Iran’s Nuclear Deal

The battle of spin has started in earnest. Soon after the historic deal between Iran and the so-called P5+1 represented by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, the White House and IRNA released fact sheet of the interim agreement.
“Iran retains the technology and material to produce fuel for a weapon for now, [but] the deal adds time to an Iranian nuclear “breakout”, [while] Iran will receive some financial relief, but most sanctions will remain.”   New York Times
The freeze would last six months, with the aim of giving international negotiators time to pursue the far more challenging task of drafting a comprehensive accord that would ratchet back much of Iran’s nuclear program and ensure that it could be used only for peaceful purposes.
Key points of the deal include:
1.    Iran will stop enriching uranium beyond 5%, and “neutralize” its stockpile of uranium enriched beyond this point.
2.    Iran will give greater access to inspectors including daily access at the Natanz and Fordo nuclear sites.
3.    There will be no further development of the Arak plant which it is believed could produce plutonium.
4.    In return, there will be no new nuclear-related sanctions for six months if Iran sticks by the accord.
5.    Iran will also receive sanctions relief worth about $7bn (£4.3bn) on sectors including precious metals.

Iranian People, true beneficiaries
Between the Iranian government, P5+1 powers and the Iranian people, the greatest beneficiaries undoubtedly seem to be the people of Iran:
·         The threat of military strike has been at least temporarily lifted;
·         Warmongers ranging from Israel and Saudi Arabia, to US neo-cons and their Iranian expat employees, to the pestiferous components of the ruling regime in Iran, to those among the expat opposition who hate the Islamic Republic far more than they care for the well-being of Iranian people, are all categorically discredited;
·         Aspects of the sanctions  that were directly effecting Iranians are somewhat modified – such as provisions “to defray the tuition costs of Iranian students”, or for “Iran’s purchase of food, agricultural commodities, medicine, medical devices”;
·         The anti-war and anti-sanction movement got a moral boast, while AIPAC and its willing or implicit supporters among the Iranian expat opposition have received a major blow;
·         Agency and confidence for future actions are confirmed among the Iranian people whose ballot box option in June’s presidential election put into office a president and a foreign minister who are far closer to their aspirations than the previous government.
What Iran considers its “right to enrich,” American officials signaled a possible workaround last week, saying they were open to a compromise in which the two sides would essentially agree to disagree, while Tehran continued to enrich.
“For the first time in nearly a decade, we have halted the progress of the Iranian
nuclear program and key parts of the program will be rolled back,” Obama
The interim deal capped five days of marathon negotiations; two months after Iran first signaled publicly it was warming to the West. The risky covert diplomacy paid off for Obama in a six-month agreement that aims to pave the way for a broader accord to curb Tehran’s disputed nuclear program.
Israel has managed to safeguard its nuclear arsenal while putting pressure on Iran not to even come close to the possibility of developing a nuclear weapon. As far as the prospect of peace in the region is concerned, the fact that Iran will be stopped from developing any nuclear weapon is, of course, good news. Be that as it may, the clear loser in this deal is still Israel.
The fact that US officials have reportedly been negotiating with Iran in secret for months prior to this deal, without even informing Israel, is yet another indication that we are witnessing the threshold of a much wider implication of this deal.  
“What was concluded in Geneva last night is not a historic agreement;
it is a historic mistake.” Bibi
Bibi certainly has shown a pragmatic side in the past, a side that is unlikely to bubble up considering the deal appears to be somewhat tougher than had been expected. Of course despite lack of US support, Bibi will aim to derail the deal by working with the Israel lobby (which must be very concerned about its own vulnerabilities given both the degree of public support for an Iran deal that the recent Washington Post and CNN polls have shown and comments like Goldberg’s) to get new sanctions legislation through Congress or by resorting to some kind of provocation (short of attacking Iran as he and his ministers have so often threatened to do).
And, of course, even pale praise for the agreement by Bibi would surely strengthen the position of his “sincerest friends” in Tehran — the hard-liners who oppose any rapprochement with Washington. But, assuming Iranian compliance with the deal, including the significantly enhanced inspections provisions, he’s going to have to be much more discreet than he has been, at least for the time being.
Regional Shift
The Islamic Republic is at the heart of any future regional shifts of power. US failures in Afghanistan, and more importantly in Iraq and Syria, have already strengthened Iran’s hand. And the newly gained confidence in Tehran will be further enhanced by the removal of economic sanctions, and buttressed by a bigger role in a weakened region.
Syria: Tehran is likely to ensure Assad’s survival, and along with Russia, assist in his rehabilitation as an acceptable regional leader. Tehran and Moscow are eager to end the war and shift the emphasis from ousting Assad to “fighting terrorism” in Syria.
Iraq: The country is in a quagmire 10 years after the military invasion. It’s terribly polarised between Sunni and Shia forces and hundreds – even thousands – of people are killed every month by suicide bombings. Tehran exercises major influence in the country, over Nouri al-Maliki’s government, and among the Shia majority. And as of late, the authoritarian Maliki has emerged as an indispensable link between Tehran and Washington as he spearheads the fight against “extremist Sunni groups”.
Saudi Arabia: The wars in Iraq, Syria and the conflict in Lebanon have deepened the rift between Riyadh and Tehran. Saudi-Iranian antagonism could lead to major sectarian escalation with incalculable price for the region; OR it can act as a deterrent.
Afghanistan: Washington can use all the help it can get to maintain control after 2014 US/NATO withdrawal. With a certain influence over Afghanistan’s northern regions, Tehran could be of aid if it chooses to facilitate stabilize Afghanistan and discourage the return of the Taliban.

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