by Ayesha Alam (Special Reports, Crescent International Vol. 44, No. 3, Rajab, 1436)
Despite vile propaganda against Islamic Iran relating to its peaceful nuclear program, the IAEA has been forced to retract its own allegations confirming that Tehran has not violated the terms of its international obligations.
The cases of Iran and Cuba offer interesting parallels in terms of US policy. In December 2014, President Barack Obama announced that the US would end its longstanding economic embargo against Cuba, influenced by the intervention of Pope Francis. Meanwhile the end date of the interim nuclear agreement with Iran is also approaching, and newspapers are already speculating about the restoration of trade relations between Iran and the United States. While this will bring obvious benefits to the energy-starved US economy, the speculations are filling the die-hard Zionist circles with angst and consternation.
The November 2013 interim nuclear agreement between Iran and the P5+1 group of countries — the US, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China — rests on a rather Faustian compromise. The economic sanctions slapped on Iran would be lifted after the agreement is finalized on June 30, 2015. Iran would allow monthly inspections of its nuclear facilities by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), proving that its enrichment program is only for civilian purposes, something Tehran has insisted all along.
According to the terms of the interim agreement, Iran would reduce its stock of fissile material from 20% to 5%. President Hassan Rouhani who was elected on the ticket of strengthening Iran’s economy, has publicly disavowed Iran’s need to develop a bomb. “We don’t need an atomic bomb. We have a great, self-sacrificing and unified nation,” President Rouhani declared in Isfahan on April 23.
While Iran has scrupulously observed its part of the bargain, allowing visits by IAEA officials and providing information on the development of its program, the process has been anything but easy. In its report of March 2015, the IAEA had resorted to fear mongering, warning “Iran has carried out activities that are relevant for the explosion of a nuclear device.” IAEA head Yukiya Amano further said Iran was not providing sufficient information about the military uses of its technology. In the April report, the IAEA was forced to recant its allegations and declare that Iran is indeed compliant with the requirements of the November 2013 interim deal. The IAEA’s April report confirms Iran’s compliance with its UN agreements for enriching uranium. The report states that Iran is not enriching uranium beyond a fissile concentration of 5%. It further states that Iran has not made any significant changes in its activities at its two enrichment facilities. In short, the report concludes that Iran has scrupulously adhered to all the terms and conditions it agreed to with the P5+1 group of countries in November 2013.
The March report is an anomaly, reflecting the various pressures exerted on Amano by forces that insist on the complete dismantling of Iran’s nuclear program. Israeli extremists represented by Benjamin Netanyahu are a case in point. In September 2012, Netanyahu launched an invective filled speech before the UN General Assembly, where he claimed that Iran had completed 70% of the work toward building a nuclear bomb. The Israeli intelligence agency, Mossad, later contradicted this in a leaked cable that assessed that Iran was “not performing the activity necessary to produce weapons.”
The pressure is building steadily. According to the Iranian news channel PressTV, US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman and Tehran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi met in Vienna on April 22 as part of the process to secure a final nuclear deal by the June 30 deadline. According to Reuters, “Catherine Ray, spokeswoman for European Union foreign policy chief Frederica Mogherini, said on Twitter that senior foreign policy officials from Iran, six world powers including Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United States and the EU will meet on Friday [April 24]. Western diplomats in New York said US Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif were expected to meet in the week of May 1 on the sidelines of the five-year review conference on the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.”
While President Rouhani and his cabinet are confident that full compliance with the terms of the interim deal would result in the complete lifting of sanctions, other voices in Iran are more circumspect. On April 9, the Rahbar, Imam Seyyed Ali Khamenei declared that “If the other side avoids its amphibology [ambiguity] in the [nuclear] talks, it’ll be an experience showing it’s possible to negotiate with them on other issues.” Media coverage of the Rahbar’s speech focused on his saying that all sanctions must be lifted “on the day of the deal” and that Iran’s military facilities were off-limits to inspectors. His reluctance to fully trust the US comes from a long history of such negotiations with Washington where past agreements and treaties were used as measures to stall and misdirect rather than to come to a bonafide agreement.
On the other side, US news coverage of the impending agreement is schizophrenic to say the least. An April 24 article published in the neocon journal Commentary is heavily based on the reactions of top Obama staffer Dennis Ross, a known Zionist hawk. Ross expressed relief that the nuclear agreement will “stall an Iranian bomb for 25 years” but expressed anger and perturbation at Imam Khamenei’s declaration in his speech that no inspectors will be allowed into Iran’s military facilities. Ross then went on to compare the Rahbar to Yasser Arafat, stating that Imam Khamenei has bad faith toward the deal just as Arafat did toward the Oslo Accords.
Meanwhile, the National Interest Online sported a title on a story dated April 20 about “How the US can gain Iran’s Trust.” The article highlighted the Rahbar’s skepticism and lack of trust in the US in a long history of military threats and attempts to engineer regime change. But the article also pointed to “a little noticed, but very important point”: the Rahbar is looking at the nuclear negotiations as a new experience, one that if it results in a desirable outcome, “can lead to negotiations between Iran and the United States regarding other important bilateral issues.” In short Imam Khamenei is open to rethinking the US-Iran relationship should the US demonstrate good faith in holding up its end of the bargain.
Perhaps the most telling article is an April 20 piece published in the Quartz magazine under the heading, “The consumer is Shah: if sanctions are lifted, here’s what trade between Iran and the US could look like.” The front picture shows a young Iranian woman wearing a black headscarf navigating a large, shiny Mac desktop — the photo representing a young, well-educated Iranian workforce with a taste for luxury consumer goods navigating the open doors of globalization. As the article points out, the financial bonanza for US companies trading with Iran would be lucrative to say the least. If Cuba is a young, hungry market, even more so is Iran. At this moment of uneasy hope, the US must weigh and balance its objectives in the Muslim East (aka the Middle East) in light of advantages and economic strengths rather than the foreign wars of burdensome allies such as Israel.