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Issue No.: 575 | May 2015

The Iran N Deal: Whose Fate Will it Seal?

Nitin G. Raut
With West Asia on the boil and the beguiling vagueness of the FA, Obama will perhaps bequeath a legacy which may be a hot potato for the next U.S. administration.

The 2nd April, 2015, an accord half-heartedly called the "Framework for Final Agreement" is cautiously signed between the five UN Security Council Permanent Members – the USA, Russia, China, Britain and France (P-5) plus Germany – and Iran to curb Iran's quest for acquiring a nuclear bomb. It tentatively aims at lifting economic sanctions against Iran in return for Iran agreeing not to fabricate nuclear bombs. The six-day hectic negotiations at Lausanne, Switzerland ended on 2nd April 2015 which the participants while expressing optimism tempered it with caution. Neither the P5+Germany nor Iran is forthcoming on specifics except generalities. A positive hope is lacking. 

As the contours of the Six Nation Iran Deal are yet not clear, it is expected to be operationalised only by 30th June, 2015. The negotiations at Lausanne which went through a torturous course began in 2003 and gained momentum in the last quarter of 2014, were basically over Iran's capacity or potentiality to acquire nuclear weapons and the Six Nations’ efforts to compel Iran to curb it. This was preceded by the US led UN sanctions which drastically curtailed Iran's oil exports and forestalled its access to international monetary institutes. Iran's thrust at Lausanne was to end diplomatic isolation and have the sanctions lifted to rejuvenate its economy, crippled by sanctions. It was this compulsion that forced Iran to come to the negotiating table.

Iran's metamorphosis from a pro-western Pahlavi monarchy into an Islamic Republic under the Ayatollahs in 1979 is now history. Iran had always considered itself a cradle of Persian civilization as distinct from the Arabs and has always coveted hegemony in West Asia. Possession of nuclear weapons is the ultimate aim of such radical and bigoted regimes, where powers flow for N-Bomb. It aspires regional hegemony for dominance by military strength and not by democratic means.

In the Lausanne talks, Iran was more interested in getting the US led sanction regime dismantled and unshackling its oil exports without any cast iron guarantees of shelving its nuclear weapon programme. To begin with there is still no authoritative data on Iran stockpiles of nuclear material or the extent of knowhow Iran possesses in its arsenals.

The Framework Agreement (FA) at Lausanne which envisages Iran to give at least one year’s notice to the world in the event of Iran deciding to make a nuclear bomb will defeat the very purpose of the Deal, as it then matters very little if Iran gets the N bomb today or in the future. The Deal, if it materializes by 30th June 2015, can also mean that Iran will in the interregnum get time to consolidate its economy to a level where it can go nuclear irrespective of the Deal or international opinion. It would then be a case of locking the stables after the horses have bolted. Such interregnum can itself be abused to build nuclear weapons by Iran. It is well known how Iraq had sent International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors on leather hunt when inspection was sought of its nuclear reactor under Saddam Hussein's regime. Moreover, Iran's Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has powers to overrule even its President Hassan Rouhani even if he is elected by people. So can the sanctity of the deal be assured in the first place?

Iran has made no secret of its ambition to be the West Asian regional power and Israel is the main target of Islamic Iran. It has supported the Shia dominated Hezbollah whose militants are entrenched in Lebanon and along with Hamas are a thorn for any peace initiative with Israel or for a democratic Palestine State co-existing peacefully with Israel. In Yemen, the Iranians are backing Shia Houthi insurgents who have swept Yemen and captured its capital Aden, sending its President Abed Hadi in exile to Riyadh in Saudi Arabia. It is already flexing its muscle in West Asia by spreading terror and supporting armed rebellion and insurgency. West Asia, as a result today, is vertically split between Shia and Sunni regimes raising fear of regional instability. Saudi Arabia in a rare show of its military power is bombing Iran's allies in Yemen. At the Lausanne conference, these aspects were not even dealt with and conflict continues. Nor was recognition of Israel made a condition precedent to lifting the sanction. Such undertakings from Iran would have made the Deal more credible and inspired some confidence. 

In fact Iran has no hostile neighbour despite the Sunni ISIS threat in Syria and Iraq. Its target of N Bomb is only Israel. Israel has strongly opposed the FA as it is unlikely to have control over Iran's nuclear research or ascertain the extent of the knowhow of N Weapons in Iran's possession. In that event does it mean the P-5 States and Germany are tacitly condoning Iran's clandestine N programme. Moreover in the event of the Deal being finalized by 30 June 2015, there is no explanation as to how Iran can be controlled from acquiring N Bomb by secret means and will the Deal assure the World that Iran will refrain from enrichment of Uranium as the restrictions are not ad infinitum. The Deal with its loop holes may even trigger a passive N-Weapon race and given the volatile political situation. West Asia will become a potential nuclear flash point. The N-Deal does not address the legitimate fears of Israel as Iran does not recognize Israel's existence and has always called for its annihilation and even dubbed Holocaust as a historical myth! Failure of the Lausanne talks to clarify the ambiguities only raises a suspicion that Iran's pretence of the use of nuclear power for peace can be a camouflage to conceal its present and future N-Weaponsation Plan. Israel is not the only nation that is apprehensive of Iran's intentions. Saudi Arabia and UAE have the same apprehensions but are not vocal in opposing the Framework Agreement. In fact for the Saudi Arabia’s Wahabi Monarch radical Islam of Iran or ISIS is a bigger threat to the Kingdom.

Iran's ostensible climb-down or submission to the seemingly stringent conditions of the Framework Agreement is to be perceived in the larger context of sectarian conflict of Shia v/s. Sunnis struggle for West Asian Leadership. Iran has propped up Syria's Assad against Sunni ISIS, the Iraqi Shia regime, the Shia Hezbollah in Lebanon and Gaza Strip against Israel and now Houthis in Yemen to form a Shia firewall to encircle Saudi Arabia. It also needs time to consolidate its political gains and restore its economy to health if it has to emerge as an unchallenged leader of West Asia. The FA will give Iran the respite it is looking for. If Iran succeeds it will throw new challenges not foreseen by the FA and the blaze of sectarian conflict in the oil rich region may even send the world economy into a tail spin. 

In 1994, a more or less similar accord was signed between the United States of America and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea to curb its N programme in return for economic aid by the Clinton Administration. But DPRK has observed the accord more in breach than in faith and continues its nuclear tests with impunity. Is such precedent encouraging Iran to sign the Framework Agreement knowing full well that the Western Powers' War weariness will work to its advantage? In his address to the US Congress, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had pointedly said that a no deal with Iran is even better than any bad deal and that was before 2nd April, 2015. In fact some more pressure on Iran would have yielded better results. 

The Obama Administration in its penultimate year is more eager for this "historic FA" as the last year 2016 will lack credibility to pursue negotiations. With West Asia on the boil and the beguiling vagueness of the FA, Obama will perhaps bequeath a legacy which may be a hot potato for the next U.S. administration. If in the unfortunate event of Iran emerging at the top of chaotic West Asia, it is Israel that will have to be on extra guard. Ayatollah Khomeini had once said "We will put America beneath our feet". And Israel as an U.S. ally is the bête noir of Iran.

It is called a Deal but whose fate it will seal is anybody's guess. 

NITIN G. RAUT, a regular contributor to this journal, is an advocate by profession. 





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