On July 14 in the beautiful city of Vienna, where the Austrian Economics Center operates, six world powers reached a historical agreement with Iran. At the same time young people celebrated in the streets of Teheran.
Some of them have probably also been part of the six years old protest against the outcome of and developments after the presidential elections and the Iranian theocracy.
Today they hope that the abolition of the sanctions will open the Iran to the world and move the country from theocracy towards a more free system.
But the deal also causes a lot of criticism. The critics see the negotiations with Iran as a demonstration of our weakness. They believe that the threat of Iran developing a nuclear weapon is actually higher with the deal than without it.
But this is nothing new. Lindsey Graham called for pre-emptive strike on Iran already in September 2009: “They’re hiding nuclear programs for a purpose. They’re trying to develop a nuclear weapon. (…) We’re walking down the road to Armageddon. We have about 18 months using the international community to decisively act,” he said. ‘
4 years (not 18 months!) later in November 2013 he opposed an interim deal known as the Joint Plan of Action and called for imposing new sanctions on Iran. And now, a few weeks before the final deal was reached, he had proposed continuation of the Joint Plan of Action (yes, the one he previously opposed).
We also remember the infamous letter by Tim Cotton to Ayatollah Chamenei, whose author admitted his only aim was to sabotage the negotiations.
As Vox’s Max Fischer puts it: Graham, Cotton and co. in fact “oppose any deal of any kind with Iran.” And “if you actually listen to them, it becomes clear that they believe the fundamental problem is core to the nature of the Iranian regime, and can only be solved by destroying that regime entirely.”
Success of the talks strengthens Iran’s moderate conservatives
What we can see in Iran today are internal quarrels between the hard-liners led by Chamenei and moderate conservatives led by the President Rouhani.
The moderate conservatives aim to push for gradual reforms, which could eventually move Iran towards a more free society and better relationship with the world. They invested a lot of political capital in the deal and they strived for constructive behaviour of Iran’s negotiators. The success of the deal will be their success; its failure will be their failure.
Thierry Coville of the French Research Center for International and Strategic Studies (IRIS) says: “Lifting the sanctions imposed on Iran will benefit Iranian civil society. It will reinforce moderate political forces in Iran who have defended the strategy of negotiation. This political capital may enable the Iranian government to implement economic (and possibly political) reforms that will support the educated middle class.”
“Our engagement with Iran, dialoguing with Iran, shouldn’t be considered a gift to the regime itself because we like them. In fact these hard-line elements in Iran really don’t want to be engaged; they thrive in isolation,” points out Karim Sadjadpour of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. This is the reason, why Iran’s hard-liners would like to emulate North Korea, “while the society they rule seeks to emulate South Korea.” They’re
Shiite-phobia and ISIS
A lot has been said about the role of Iran in regional conflicts. It is often described as unambiguously negative and destabilizing one. But don’t forget against whom Iran and its proxies are fighting: Quds, Hezbollah and Assad are fighting against ISIS and al-Qaed’s offshoot al-Nusra Front; Houthi rebels in Yemen are also fighting against AQAP.
It is kind of “Shiite-phobia” to blame all the instability on Shiites and Iran and not to see the negative role of our Sunni allies. Saudi Arabia does’t fight ISIS at all, instead of that it deepens the crisis in Yemen by intervening against Houthis. Turkey doesn’t fight it at all, instead it ponders over intervention against Syrian Kurds, who are heroically opposing ISIS. (UPDATE: Turkey has actually already started operation against both ISIS and Kurds…) Qatar openly sponsors jihadists in Libya.
Therefore Federiga Bindi of the Center for Transatlantic Relations at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies argues: “Iran will be free to become a major regional player in the troubled Middle East. In doing so, it will be better able to help pacify the region and, particularly, combat the self-proclaimed Islamic State, which is increasingly becoming a direct threat to Europe. With Iran on board, it will also be easier to find a solution to the Syrian civil war and avoid the collapse of yet another country in the region.”
Also Coville thinks, that the deal “paves the way for some form of cooperation between Iran and the United States to try to solve regional crises, for example those in Iraq and Syria. This is good for stability in the region and hence for European interests.”
This would be a geopolitical masterpiece of similar importance as Nixon’s decision to align with Mao’s China.
What is the Deal About
According to the German foreign minister Steinmeier the deals means, that:
- More than two thirds of the centrifuges will be mothballed and monitored by the IAEA.
- 95% of the enriched uranium will be sent out of the country or destroyed, with Iran’s stockpile strictly limited for 15 years (a maximum of 300 kg).
- Everything agreed upon will be closely monitored.
- A robust mechanism guarantees that the IAEA has access wherever it requires. This will apply for up to 25 years, even beyond the IAEA’s standard rules.
- If Iran breaches the agreed rules, sanctions could be immediately re-imposed – without a new resolution from the Security Council.
The main problem according to the critics of the deal is that it won’t prevent Iran from enriching uranium.
But it is delusional to think, that it would be possible to do so. It would be no deal, but a dictate without any room for compromise.
By the way, the Non-Proliferation Treaty, of which Iran is a signatory, allows enriching uranium! It promotes cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. You cannot use nuclear energy without enriching uranium.
If you would demand this from Iran, it wouldn’t cooperate anymore. And a non-cooperating Iran would be a much bigger threat for the region and the world.
Do we want another major war in Middle East?
Opponents of the agreement don’t offer any option but war.
Limited airstrikes to eliminate nuclear facilities actually wouldn’t prevent Iran from continuing its program.
As John Perkovich of Carnegie Endowment writes: “There is a real possibility that some existing facilities for manufacturing and operating nuclear centrifuges would escape destruction.”
“(G)iven that Iran has had at least a decade to prepare for such a military attack, it likely has contingency plans to resurrect its nuclear program quickly with whatever facilities and nuclear scientists survive the attack,” argues Perkovich.
The alternative would be another big war in the Middle East, which would lead to even more destabilization of the region, which would benefit the jihadist groups like ISIS or al-Qaeda.
Therefore the Iran Deal is by far the best solution of the Iranian problem.