Deal or No Deal

Spearhead Analysis – 15.07.2015

iran_us_dealTuesday July 14th 2015 became a day to be remembered as news came in from Vienna of a historic accord between Iran and the six nations involved in the negotiations to curb Iran’s nuclear program. The six nations were the US, UK, China, Russia, France and Germany. The current round of negotiations had dragged on for 23 days before the accord was reached but the negotiations had been in progress for almost twenty three months. The accord led to Presidential telephone contact between the US and Iranian Presidents — an unthinkable event given the hostility and the history of hostility between them. Iran looked back to the CIA sponsored overthrow of the elected Mossadegh government of Iran to bring in Reza Shah Pahalevi as the King and the subsequent patronage of his long brutal regime. The US had not forgotten the 440 day siege of the US Embassy and the American hostages taken by the followers of the Ayatollah who overthrew the Shah to bring in Islamic rule. There was also the failed disastrous attempt to rescue the hostages. Then there was the long Iran-Iraq war with the US siding with Iraq under Saddam and the scandal of the Iran Contra weapons deal that sought to get the US hostages released in exchange for weapons to Iran. President Bush had included Iran in his axis of evil speech with North Korea and Iraq. So this historic accord is really historic and will be Obama’s most abiding legacy and he was spot-on when he said that a deal is better than a no deal.

Predictably Israel’s Netanyahu chimed in with what has become his trade mark rhetoric against any deal with Iran. He spoke of Iran’s ambitions in the Middle East and of Iran’s support to Syria’s Assad, to the Houthis in Yemen, the Shia factions in Iraq and to the Hezbollah in Lebanon calling Iran the Militant Islamic Republic of Iran. He did not mention Iran’s role against the Taliban and the ISIL. Mr Nethanyahu is on record as having said earlier that Iran’s ambition was to rule the world. That Mr Nethanyahu is being called a failure is his own fault — he set himself against the negotiations with Iran and against a deal of any kind without any real argument except for hate filled speeches against Iran including a controversial one to the US Congress at the invitation of some Republicans. He labelled the current agreement as a ‘mistake of historical proportions’. So President Obama was again spot on when he said that the accord with Iran should not be politics and warned Congress that he would veto any attempts to block the implementation of the accord. Congress can move against the lifting of sanctions and the President can veto such actions but eventually Congress can try to override the Presidential veto. All that will be achieved will be delay because the Agreement is getting very positive vibes internationally — the exceptions being the Gulf countries and Israel.

The Agreement in Vienna is a 100 page document that is said to be legally watertight. No doubt it will be analyzed in great detail but the main points are evident. The Agreement is a welcome result of the negotiations. Given the magnitude of Iran’s nuclear program the reduction in its scale is a great achievement. Iran will not produce nuclear weapons nor will it enrich uranium to weapons grade — at least not in any quantity to make a weapon. Time limits ranging from 10 t0 15 years and even beyond have been imposed on Iran. The Agreement is not based on trust — it is based on verifications. This means access to all Iranian facilities by IAEA inspectors but with Iranian consent and cooperation—managed access– under the terms of an additional protocol. Limits have been imposed on Iran for its arms production and missile programs ranging from 8 to 15 years. There is a snapback clause that can be effective in 65 days if Iran fails to comply. Iran will not produce weapons grade plutonium and almost 98% of its stockpile of weapons grade fissile material will be disposed of — this stockpile is said to be enough for ten weapons. Almost two thirds of the centrifuges will cease operations. No diversion of fissile material will be permitted. So there is a positive move in the direction of stopping nuclear proliferation in the Middle East and introducing a regime of transparency. The hypocrisy of course is that Israel continues to have a nuclear capability.

Finally it must be noted that there has been much criticism of US policy in the Middle East. The record has been spotty and this Agreement is a redeeming event. A large number of Iranians live in the US — mostly in California but US public opinion is negative on Iran. Israel has had a role in shaping this opinion even though Netanyahu has never put forth a reasoned argument. In an Al Jazeera program immediately after the Agreement an Israeli commentator tried to blame Iran for the 911 attack in the US and the 77 attack in the UK! There will be domestic opposition to the accord both in the US and Iran but both Presidents have set the right tone by placing this positive development above politics and no doubt this will be followed up by more actions to ensure acceptability. President Rouhani has called it a win-win for both sides. This agreement is, without a doubt, a tectonic and historical shift with great significance for the world. President Obama rightly quoted former President John F Kennedy — ‘never fear to negotiate’. Something that India needs to note as the possibility of resuming dialogue with Pakistan becomes a reality.

(Spearhead Analyses are collaborative efforts and not attributable to a single individual)