by Zafar Bangash (Main Stories, Crescent International Vol. 44, No. 2, Jumada' al-Akhirah, 1436)
The allegation about Iran building a bomb is utterly false. The US and its allies know it, so what is their real motive in exerting pressure on Iran? We look at the hidden reasons.
Rushing to meet the March 31 deadline for a “framework” agreement on Iran’s peaceful nuclear program, the pace and tempo of discussions between Iranian and American officials not only quickened but also intensified in the second half of last month. This was confirmed by Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif when speaking to Iran’s PressTV on March 20 that “good progress” had been made over the past six days of the latest round of negotiations with the US. “We made good progress over this week. We’ve done a lot of hard work, but some work remains ahead,” Dr. Zarif told Iran’s global TV network, on the sixth day of ongoing nuclear talks in Lausanne, Switzerland, that started on March 15.
While theoretically, Iran is holding talks with the P5+1 group of countries comprising the US, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany, discussions in recent weeks have been primarily with the US. This confirms that it is Washington that has been leading the anti-Iran crusade. This is further corroborated by the fact that all other members of the P5+1 group of countries have diplomatic relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran. Uncle Sam is the only odd man out, a situation it is desperately trying to rectify.
Last month witnessed a new level of engagement. While Foreign Minister Zarif has been leading Iran’s delegation vis-à-vis his American counterpart John Kerry, two new players also joined negotiations. The head of Iran Atomic Energy Agency, Dr. Ali Akbar Salehi and US Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz also became involved. This clearly indicated that nut and bolts of the agreement were being worked out.
The Americans, especially President Barack Obama and Kerry are desperate for an agreement with Iran, each for his own reasons. Obama, however, is unable to shed a mindset borne of imperial hubris as was evident in his Nowruz video message to the Iranian people and leadership on March 19. “Iran’s leaders have a choice between two paths… a path that has isolated Iran and the Iranian people… [and] the path of greater opportunities for the Iranian people,” said Obama, adding, “The days and weeks ahead will be critical, our negotiations have made progress, but gaps remain.”
The Rahbar, Imam Seyyed Ali Khamenei, however, quickly put Obama in his place. He cautioned Iranian officials on March 20 against submitting to foreign demands in order to achieve economic growth. “Basically, what he [Obama] says in his message is that you must accept the terms we dictate in the nuclear talks so that jobs, investment and economic activities will blossom in your country… this view will never lead to any conclusions for us.”
The following day (March 21), while addressing a massive crowd in Mashhad, the Rahbar reiterated that removal of anti-Iran sanctions must be part and parcel of any deal. He rejected the proposal in which “America says ‘we sign the agreement and monitor [Iran’s] behaviour and then remove the sanctions.’ This is erroneous and unacceptable and Iran will never accept this. This is the Americans’ ploy. Removal of sanctions should be part of any agreement.”
Elaborating on this point further, the Rahbar said the Americans expect the Islamic Republic to take irreversible decisions about its nuclear program for a deal to be concluded. This is unacceptable to Iran. If the US and its allies are able to re-impose sanctions on any grounds, there is no reason for Iran’s negotiators to accept an irreversible condition. “Iran’s nuclear industry is indigenous, it belongs to the people, and should continue to progress,” the Rahbar emphasized.
He also castigated Obama for his hypocritical claim. “Obama’s Nowruz message included dishonest assertions and his claim of friendship for Iranian people was not sincere,” the Rahbar said, noting that Obama’s claim that there are people in Iran who do not want the nuclear issue to be resolved through diplomacy is a lie. What the people of Iran resist is the “bullying approach of the United States,” said the Leader of the Islamic Revolution. “They [the Americans] say [to Iranian negotiators] ‘you come here and listen to what we say and implement them word for word.’ But the honourable Iranian people will resist [such a demand] and will never accept this.”
The Rahbar touched on several other points that are vital to understanding the dynamics at work. The first is the US’ desperate need for nuclear talks with Islamic Iran in order to find a way out of the cul de sac into which it has driven itself as a result of unwise policies pursued over three decades. Far from isolating Tehran or bringing it to its knees, the Islamic Republic has gained in self-confidence and stature. Without doubt, it has become the pre-eminent power in the region today.
Second, as the Rahbar noted, the apparent differences between the White House and the Republicans do not mean that American officials do not need nuclear negotiations. Rather, there are political factions in the US, such as some Republicans that do not want a Democratic-run government to pull off nuclear talks with Iran to a successful conclusion. This is entirely for their domestic political considerations.
The Rahbar also dampened speculation that the Islamic Republic would agree to a “grand bargain” with the US. He emphasized that the talks were only about the nuclear case and do not cover regional issues or issues related to Iran’s internal affairs, including defense matters. “Iran and the US have opposite views on regional issues. We want security and calm in the region, but the arrogant powers led by America pursue the policy of sowing insecurity in the region, which is quite the opposite of our goals.” This was a reference to the turmoil that has gripped the region as a result of imperial-Zionist policies that also have the backing of the puppet Arabian regimes.
While one could talk about the nuts and bolts of the framework agreement — the level of enrichment Iran would carry out, the time period for the agreement, the level of inspections, and the lifting of US and UN sanctions — that are both illegal — the real issues are elsewhere. Iran has lived with these sanctions for more than three decades and in the last 10 years they have been intensified including shutting it off from all banking transactions as well as a freeze on its oil income that amounts to some $100 billion.
True, the sanctions have caused some difficulties for Iran but they are not insurmountable. Through deft moves, Iran has been able to enter into a number of barter agreements with several countries. Further, and more crucially, Iran has met its needs through internal production. The level of progress Iran has made in various fields from engineering, nuclear, defence to aerospace technology is impressive. It is this realization that has driven the US to seek an end to sanctions that have singularly failed to bring Iran to its knees and have instead caused isolation for the United States.
The fundamental question is, what is the US after, or more precisely, what is it that Obama wants when he knows that Iran is not pursuing the acquisition of a nuclear bomb? All these restrictions being imposed on Iran despite its being a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) appear totally out of order. So what is Obama after?
The deal with Iran would be the quintessential achievement of his presidency and form an important part of his “legacy.” He is trying to replicate what Richard Nixon achieved vis-à-vis China in 1971–1972 although it is highly unlikely that Obama would be invited to Tehran in the manner of Nixon’s visit to Beijing in February 1972 unless there is a radical change in US attitude.
From the first day of the victory of the Islamic Revolution, Iran has demanded equal treatment and respect. For this, it has paid a very high price but dignity and respect do not come without a steep price. Islamic Iran’s stance has been viewed as challenging the Western-imposed global order. This is certainly true. The current order was crafted by the victors of the Second World War in order to protect their interests at the expense of everyone else. For more than three decades, this order was imposed by brute force. Any country that dared to break out of the stranglehold was quickly brought back into the fold through military aggression and/or punishing sanctions. The Islamic Revolution not only challenged this unjust system but has also valiantly defied it for 36 years.
Nothing that the US and its allies could throw at them has deflected the valiant people of Iran, led by muttaqi leadership. from their principled stand. This is something the West does not understand. In addition to using its destructive military might, the West has used economic deprivation through sanctions as tools to punish those that refuse to fall into line. What they do not realize is that committed Muslims are motivated by very different considerations. Economic deprivations are part of life struggle. Such conditions only add to their determination and resolve.
More than three decades after the US launched the sanctions war on Tehran, the Islamic Republic has emerged stronger, thanks to the sagacity and wisdom of its leadership and the commitment of its people. No other country in the region can show this degree of independence and development as the Islamic State. Its power — military, political, economic and social — has increased exponentially. So has its reach. America’s allies in the region — puppets really — have suffered repeated defeats. Despite hubris, segments within the US establishment have realized that Iran is the pre-eminent power in the region and nothing can be achieved without its consent.
In Washington’s deeply polarised, indeed poisoned political environment, opponents of rapprochement with Iran are hell-bent on sabotaging the deal. Its outward face is represented by the Republicans because they see a Democratic president getting credit for such a breakthrough. This would diminish the Republicans’ already low stature with the American public. There is widespread support for negotiations with Iran — 68% in favour according to a recent poll by CNN/ORC released on March 17. Only 29% oppose negotiations. On March 23, another spanner was thrown in the works by 367 congressmen demanding that any deal with Iran must ensure it is kept away from the “bomb for decades.” Iran is not after the bomb, as repeatedly stressed by its leaders at the highest level. The parroting of this ludicrous demand is meant to force Iran to forego its rights under the NPT.
The American people are also beginning to realize that the Zionists are manipulating their political system and have distorted it in ways that undermine their interests. They witnessed this again in the Republicans’ invitation to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address a joint session of US Congress on March 3. The Republican-controlled Senate did not even bother to inform Obama. This did not sit well with most Americans as well as some 60 Democrats that refused to attend Netanyahu’s speech that was widely seen as arrogant and patronizing. The ruler of a beggar nation came to tell the American people how their country should conduct its foreign policy. It takes chutzpah!
When Netanyahu’s arrogant ranting failed to turn Americans against the deal, a group of 47 Republicans sent an open letter to Iran telling its leaders Congress would not “ratify” the agreement and a future Republican president would abrogate it. The letter exposed the level of ignorance prevalent among rightwing congressmen about the US Constitution. It is not Congress that ratifies any agreement; its function is to debate and pass bills that must be sent to the president to sign before they become law. If the president vetoes a bill, a two-thirds majority of congress is required to override the presidential veto.
Obama’s desire for a deal with Iran is evident because he wants to secure his place in history but what’s in it for Kerry? In the US, politics is about image not substance. That is why a third rate Hollywood actor like Ronald Reagan could become president. Similarly, George W. Bush was elected president twice when he was widely known as a moron. In the nuclear negotiations with Iran, Kerry has been the most visible face of American diplomacy. He is no moron; Kerry’s high profile parleys with Iran would enhance his standing if a deal were struck. We must bear in mind that in 2004 Kerry made an unsuccessful bid for the presidency. It cannot be ruled out that he may use this as an opportunity to take another stab at the highest office.
Currently, Hillary Clinton is the front-runner in the Democratic Party but her nomination is not assured. There is also Vice President Joe Biden who might want to try again now that he has played second fiddle to Obama for eight years. Between the three of them, Kerry’s chances would be greatly enhanced if there were a deal.
Thus, Iran is the prize they are seeking. True, a deal would bring about stability in the region and open up vast opportunities for progress for all people concerned. It will depend on how much political courage the Americans can muster to make the painful choices they have so far avoided. A good starting point would be to stop chasing shadows (Iran’s non-existence nuclear bomb quest) and get real. This will become apparent in the next few days and weeks after Crescent presstime.