by Tahir Mahmoud (News & Analysis, Crescent International Vol. 45, No. 6, Shawwal, 1437)
There was always deep concern among some segments of the Iranian society that the West would not live up to its part of the bargain in the nuclear deal with Iran. A year after the deal was signed has confirmed the skeptics’ worst fears.
One year after the nuclear deal between Iran and the P5+1 group of countries was signed in Vienna and more than six months after all nuclear-related sanctions were removed, the deal still sputters toward implementation. It is not Iran that is holding up its implementation; it has fulfilled its part of the bargain fully by capping its nuclear program and opening its facilities to intrusive international inspections. The other side, especially the US, is dragging its feet on what is referred to as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
Such US foot dragging has led even the usually calm and composed Foreign Minister of Iran, Dr. Mohammad Javad Zarif to express disappointment at the way the US is conducting itself. In an interview with the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) news agency on the first anniversary of the deal (July 14), Dr. Zarif while extolling the virtues of the JCPOA said the US would get a “low grade” for its commitment to implementation. “If we want to give a grade to the JCPOA, it will definitely get a very good score considering the time frame and international circumstances, but if we want to give a grade to the way that the Americans implemented [the agreement], they will probably receive a low score,” Dr. Zarif said. He was the lead negotiator in talks with the six countries.
In their public statements, American officials make soothing noises about their seriousness to implement the deal but in practice, they fall far short. True, there are some segments of the US establishment and society that are opposed to the deal. The Republican-dominated US Congress wants to sabotage the deal. The Republicans and their Zionist masters were opposed to the deal from the beginning and tried hard to prevent it from being finalized. Unsuccessful in that bid, they are now busy sabotaging it. The Najdi Bedouins (aka Bani Saud or the House of Saud) are also part of the conspiratorial gang.
The US Congress has imposed several bouts of new sanctions and is doing everything in its power to derail it. This will not be easy since the deal is not only with the US but with five other countries including the four remaining members of the UN Security Council. The Congress, however, has passed a number of laws that aim to derail the deal altogether. There is also concern that a new president, to be elected in November, may put his/her own spanner in the deal.
From Iran’s perspective, the really frustrating part is that most major banks are unsure of the American position and are thus not prepared to deal with Iran. While US banks are not in the picture because the US forbids any transactions with Iran involving the dollar, European banks are also not sure what punitive measures they may face from the US if they were to get major exposure in underwriting deals with Tehran. So far, most banks are prepared to underwrite deals worth about $100 million but this is a paltry sum compared to what Iran’s requirements are.
Dr. Zarif alluded to this in his IRIB interview when he said “…a number of [European] banks are still in fear of US regulations, but we believe that such fear is a psychological fear emanating from conservative nature of monetary and banking institutions and not from regulations that prevent cooperation with Iran.” The net effect is that Iran is unable to get access to finances that it would in normal circumstances. The Islamic Republic has also not had access to all its frozen funds, again due to the murky nature of US regulations.
Other Iranian officials have been equally critical of the lack of progress on the nuclear deal. For instance, the former foreign minister and advisor on foreign affairs to the Rahbar Imam Seyyed Ali Khamenei, Dr. Ali Akbar Velayati on the first anniversary of the nuclear deal said, “The Americans did not abide by their obligations under the JCPOA. Sanctions [imposed on Iran] have not been lifted completely and certain conditions set by the Rahbar in the JCPOA have not been observed.” He demanded that US President Barack Obama should pledge in writing that his administration would remove sanctions imposed on Iran by Washington. “But,” said Dr. Velayati, “he has not met this condition yet.” He reiterated Iran’s commitment to the JCPOA obligations, saying, “But, Western sides have not lifted the sanctions yet.”
A more ominous warning came from Dr. Ali Larijani, speaker of Iran’s Majlis and an influential member of the Iranian establishment. He said in Tehran on July 20 that the concerted “disruptive moves” afoot in the US have reached a point that leaves Iran with no option but to take retaliatory action. In order to show that Iran is serious, Dr. Larijani directed the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran to be prepared for resumption of the suspended reprocessing activities, should the deal fall through. Along the same lines, Dr. Ali Akbar Salehi, head of the Atomic Energy Organization said that Iran could resume its nuclear activities immediately if the other side failed to live up to its side of the bargain. As time goes by, it is becoming increasingly clear that the West does not appear to be serious about its commitments, even those given in writing.
The UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon threw his own spanner in the works — it is not clear at whose behest — when in his July 12 report to the Security Council, he made references to issues that are way beyond the scope of the JCPOA. These included Iran’s missile program, its policies toward Yemen and its participation in a defence exhibition in Baghdad. Ban should know better that Iran’s missile program is not covered by the JCPOA. Also, UN Security Council Resolution 2231 adopted on July 20, 2015 provides for the termination of the provisions of previous Security Council resolutions on the Iranian nuclear program and establishes specific restrictions that apply to all states without exception. They are not Iran specific.
Ban’s report to the Security Council claimed that Iran’s ballistic missile launches “are not consistent with the constructive spirit” of the JCPOA. While admitting that it was up to the Security Council to determine whether Iran’s missile launches violated SC Resolution 2231 adopted last year as part of the nuclear agreement, Ban went on to make other spurious demands. “I call upon Iran to refrain from conducting such ballistic missile launches since they have the potential to increase tensions in the region.” Ban was clearly speaking outside his mandate. Both Russian ambassador Vitaly Churkin and US ambassador Samantha Power — the latter no friend of Iran — chided Ban for his intemperate remarks and the indiscreet and irrelevant contents of his report.
The outgoing UN chief’s remarks were lapped up by the anti-Muslim and Iranophobic Zionist-dominated media. The Zionist-infested think tanks also used Ban’s remarks to intensify their anti-Iran campaign. Despite failing to live up to his part of the deal, US President Barack Obama does not want to walk away from it. He wants to leave this as his legacy despite his many foreign policy failures. The heightened anti-deal campaign is meant to prepare the ground for the new arrival in the White House to scuttle or reopen negotiations on the deal.
Chastened by the Russian and American ambassadors, Ban backpedaled on his remarks. On July 19, he made soothing noises to limit the damage caused by his intemperate remarks. He said, “One year on, I remain certain that the JCPOA is the best way to ensure the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program and to realize the great aspirations of the Iranian people. I call for the JCPOA… to be implemented in a comprehensive manner, based on mutual respect and mutual benefit, and which would facilitate greater cooperation to achieve international peace and security.”
Who is preventing implementation of the JCPOA in a comprehensive manner? Certainly, it is not Tehran but Ban does not have the courage to put the blame where it belongs. Were he to utter the truth, he would be dispatched from his post before his term comes to an end.
Meanwhile frustration is building up in Tehran. As a vibrant society, there has always been vigorous debate in Iran over the efficacy of the nuclear deal. Those opposed to the deal put their scepticism aside to see whether the other side would live up to the bargain. A year later, the result is not very encouraging. True, the lifting of nuclear-related sanctions has enabled Iran to sell greater quantity of oil on the international market but it has still not reached its pre-sanctions level. Further and more frustratingly, its frozen assets have not been returned in full. Much of this has to do US sanctions on Iran’s dealing in dollars.
The Islamic Republic does not wish to deal in dollars; it would prefer to deal in euros or the Chinese Yuan. The difficulty is that with nearly 60% of global reserve currency being in US dollars, it is difficult to bypass the greenback altogether. Financial managers in the Islamic Republic of Iran must think of creative ways to bypass the dollar. They can enter into barter deals — these have been tried with some countries. They can also deal in other currencies or a basket of currencies to avoid undue risk.
The best way to overcome all these problems is to implement in earnest the resistance economy that the Rahbar has repeatedly emphasized. That is the best guarantor of Islamic Iran’s independence and integrity. Even proponents of the deal now admit that American obstructionism has an altogether different purpose: to force the Islamic Republic to abandon its principled policy and accept US hegemony. These include withdrawal of support from the Palestinians as well as Hizbullah. American policy is driven by only one obsession: defence of the illegitimate Zionist entity at all costs.
This understanding needs to be internalized fully in the Islamic Republic to develop appropriate defence mechanisms against it. Nearly 40 years of sacrifices after the success of the Islamic Revolution should not be abandoned for the sake of a few million or billion dollars. The blood of the tens of thousands of shuhada’ demands no less. This message should be communicated to all segments of the Iranian society. Allah (swt) has promised that He will help those who stand up for divine principles and help His cause (47:07).