Middle East & North Africa

Looking at the Iran Deal From Tehran

Iran Deal


August 21, 2015 15:04 EDT

The Iran deal is the result of hundreds of hours of negotiations between some of the most seasoned diplomats—it must be protected.

I can barely forget the prediction John Bolton made in 2008. The former US ambassador to the United Nations said Israel would attack Iran before the new US president was inaugurated. Well, here’s some breaking news: Barack Obama took the oath of office in 2009 and, following two presidential terms, Israel has never attacked Iran.

The prophecy that Israel would pound Iran back to the Stone Age is as old as the early 2000s. Debate over a solution to the nuclear standoff has stretched over decades, with warmongers pushing for a military confrontation while others argued for diplomacy. And at the end of the day, Iran’s relationship with the international community took a beating.

But the oft-repeated assertion that either Israel or the United States would strike Iran never came true. Peace and diplomacy emerged as the winner.

Retrospectively, when I explored content from media organizations prior to the election of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, I found a huge volume of “war material” produced recklessly to scare people—portraying an “evil” Iran run by “crazy mullahs” who were hell bent on destroying Israel. There were probably hundreds of TV and radio stations, newspapers and magazines going to extraordinary lengths to lay the groundwork for a military confrontation with a “nuclear Iran,” thus to serve the interests of those who were looking to double their dollars.

At the height of tensions between Iran and the West, Alan J. Kuperman boldly suggested in 2009 that “there’s only one way to stop Iran”: to attack its nuclear facilities because “history suggests that military strikes could work.”

“Incentives and sanctions will not work, but air strikes could degrade and deter Iran’s bomb program at relatively little cost or risk, and therefore are worth a try,” he wrote in The New York Times.

Six years later, the same Kuperman asserts that the nuclear deal with Iran “is built on a lie.”

Moving over the Atlantic Ocean, The Daily Telegraph in Britain gave regular coverage to speeches made by Bolton, who was one of the most vocal proponents of a military strike against the Iranians. At one point, he even said a nuclear-armed Iran would be as dangerous as “Hitler marching into the Rhineland.”

Moreover, hawkish journalists like Judith Miller were geared up for a re-run of the Iraq debacle: Construct an Iran that possesses nuclear weapons, and that will be a serious security concern for the entire world and should be dealt with urgently—preferably with military action.

International media were serious in raising the stakes for an Iran-Israel faceoff. Maps were drawn and the trajectory of Israeli missiles falling on Iranian cities was meticulously depicted and published on numerous outlets such as CNN and the BBC.

Every day, the same old news would be broadcast with a different caption and added alarmism. They had either believed the war threats of Binyamin Netanyahu and his neocon sympathizers in the United States, or they were simply trying to intimidate Iranians through a massive PR campaign. In either case, what the media were doing was morally indefensible. The media were trumpeting for war instead of calling for diplomacy, and their role in the escalation of tensions over the nuclear case cannot be ignored.

I concur with those who believe a nuclear-armed Iran would be a threat to world peace and security—the same way I believe a nuclear-armed Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates or Qatar would be threatening to the world. I was an outspoken critic of former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a man who lengthened and aggravated Iran’s hostility with the West, made pointless remarks in denying the Holocaust and even threatened to wipe Israel off the map.

But I equally felt unhappy with the propaganda campaign aimed at aggrandizing the Iranian threat, filling the air with terror and panic over a forthcoming Iran-Israel war. Because after all, everyone knew with some degree of certainty that Iran has never had any intention of producing nuclear weapons—and it won’t ever acquire the technical capability to build an atomic bomb. So, pretending otherwise and propagating this conviction that Iran was after nukes was simply unethical and false, contributing to further hostility and cynicism in the Middle East.

The Deal

However, after some 12 years, we now have an agreement between Iran and the P5+1, which is one of the most invaluable diplomatic assets of the modern era. It’s the product of painstaking efforts and endless discussions. The Iran deal is the result of hundreds of hours of negotiations, haggling and quarreling between some of the most seasoned diplomats. The deal is precious property that must be protected.

The agreement, which is known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and was endorsed unanimously by the United Nations Security Council, ensures that Iran is prevented from developing nuclear weapons without detection. In return, the economic sanctions placed on Iranians will be terminated.

The Iran deal is so technically robust that it even makes it impossible for Iran to produce fissile material needed for the production of a nuclear bomb in less than one year. So, if Iran ever decides to move toward producing something conducive to the manufacturing of a nuclear bomb, the world will realize and penalize it with another dose of sanctions.

Javad Zarif

Javad Zarif / Flickr

The point is that Iran—from the very beginning—had resolutely renounced any intention of producing nuclear weapons, but the US and world powers didn’t trust the country’s leadership. Even though the P5+1 powers still do not trust Iran, we have an agreement that, as US President Barack Obama has stated, isn’t built on trust, but on verification.

Over the past two years, Iranian negotiators have been able to overcome all the domestic hurdles and foreign intimidation to build a deal that provides the international community with sufficient inspection leeway, verification mechanism and unprecedented concessions to make it clear that from the outset, there hasn’t been any nuclear weapon production plans—and there won’t be any in the future. It’s the most compelling method of behalf of the Iranians: If you don’t trust our intentions, then come on over and have a look for yourself. Oh, and feel free to inspect whatever you deem suspicious, and we will stop those activities that you believe are inconsistent with a civilian nuclear program—just so there’s no raised eyebrows.

On the Domestic Front

Of course, it was not simply the burden of crippling sanctions that brought Iran to the negotiating table. Iranians were fed up with continued hostility and a war of words with Washington and European capitals. Iranians did not want their president to continue wasting the nation’s resources and capital on traveling to distant islands and archipelagoes. Ahmadinejad, whose foreign policy was an utter failure when compared to the breakthrough achievements of Rouhani, was criticized for paying several visits to  African nations and giving out gratuitous loans, despite Iranians being forced to live under sanctions; for repeatedly traveling to Latin America and heavily investing in developmental projects there, without any benefit for Iran in return; and for establishing contacts with the island nations of Oceania that could hardly contribute to the economic prosperity of Iran or the diplomatic settlement of the nuclear dispute.

Frustrated Iranians wanted hostility with Canada, Britain, France and Germany to come to an end and for a new chapter to be opened in Iran’s foreign policy.

So, the nuclear agreement was not simply an agreement over the number of spinning centrifuges or the technical configuration of the Arak heavy-water reactor. It was a technical deal with diplomatic implications; an accord for the restoration of Iran’s damaged ties with the international community and its reengagement with the West.

Israel and Saudi Arabia

The nuclear deal with Iran will be a victory for all those parties involved in the talks. But there are a few losers. One of them being Israel, because the world might start challenging Tel Aviv’s nuclear arsenal and ask the question: Why should Israel be the sole possessor of nuclear weapons in the Middle East? If there’s ever going to be a Middle East that is free of nuclear weapons, the only state that would need to disarm is Israel.

The other loser is Saudi Arabia, which will find the economic revival of Iran to be an unpleasant development. Saudis currently have the world’s 19th largest economy, and thanks to the sharp decline in Iranian oil sales due to sanctions, Riyadh has been able to replace Tehran as the major producer and exporter of crude in the Middle East. Besides, the Saudis are worried about losing their regional hegemony, with the emergence of an Iran that is politically powerful.

Other than Tel Aviv and Riyadh—and the Republicans in Congress who still conjure up war and sanctions—it’s hard to find people who say the diplomatic achievement was something infinitesimal and indispensable. The Financial Times called it “a victory for pragmatism in Tehran.” The Guardian termed it “a triumph of diplomacy.” And The Huffington Post referred to it as a “victory against hardliners and terrorists.”

It is clear that “JCPOA” are the letters that will make the world a better, safer and more peaceful place to live. The Iran deal demonstrates that although it’s never easy to peacefully settle disputes, diplomacy is what saves lives.

*[Read Viewing the Iran Deal From Israel by Hillel Schenker.]

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.

Photo Credit: US Department of State / US Mission / Flickr

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