Iran’s Nuclear Agreement to End Hostilities

The announcement on Thursday of a deal between Iran, the US, and five other nations concerning the restriction of Iran’s nuclear enrichment program in return for an easing of sanctions there, has sparked debate worldwide.

Claire Bernish (The Pontiac Tribune) – The announcement on Thursday of a deal between Iran, the US, and five other nations concerning the restriction of Iran’s nuclear enrichment program in return for an easing of sanctions there, has sparked debate worldwide. Basic parameters for an agreement were decided in extensive meetings over the course of 8 days in Lausanne, Switzerland, but the details of the final accord won’t be agreed upon and signed until the June 30th deadline. Reaction to deal has been widely varied, with Saudi Arabia, and other Gulf nations voicing reluctance, and Israel vowing “vehement opposition”, while British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond and German Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed slightly cautionary optimism. President Obama also appears optimistic, saying this deal “is not based on trust. It’s based on unprecedented verification.”

The bipartisan reaction from Congress emphasized the necessity of transparency regarding the agreement’s final draft. Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) who is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is gathering bipartisan support for a bill (S-615 ) proposed by the committee, which would require Congress to examine any forthcoming agreement with Iran. In an interview, he stated the committee’s and Congress’ intent, saying “We want the right to go through the details of the deal and to decide whether we believe congressionally mandated sanctions should be alleviated”.

The guidelines set up for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) include reduction of Iran’s nuclear centrifuges by about two – thirds, from approximately 19,000 to 6,104, a halt in construction of such new facilities, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) monitoring of the storage of said infrastructure, and agreement by Iran to not enrich its uranium over 3.67% for the next 15 years . Iran also agrees to grant the IAEA new levels of transparency in regard to its facilities, import practices concerning certain nuclear – related supplies, as well as the ability to investigate thoroughly any suspected covert activities or allegations of misuse both at its sites or in the production of yellowcake. Measures to address the IAEA’s concern over possible military applications in the industry are also provided. For ten years, Iran will have limits for both enrichment and for research and development in that field. Construction of new enrichment facilities and heavy water reactors, as well as reduction of its stockpile of previously enriched uranium, will be in place for fifteen years. Some permanent measures will remain in place, even after the more strict aspects have eased, including observance of IAEA guidelines about transparency and access for inspection. Iran will be bound by the Nuclear Non – Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which dictates prohibitions for the development or acquisition of nuclear weapons, permanently.

The JCPOA guidelines appear to account for every possible facet of nuclear enrichment fathomable, but even Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif admitted to difficulties in its relationship with the US, saying “Iran and US relations have nothing to do with this, which was an attempt to resolve the nuclear issue … We have serious differences with the United States. We have built mutual distrust in the past…So what I hope is that through courageous implementation of this, some of that trust could be remedied. But that is for us all to wait and see.”

Photo: Borna Ghasemi/AFP/Getty Images
Mohammad Javad Zarif arrives in Tehran to cheering and celebration.

The Iranian people demonstrated their support of the agreement with a spontaneous celebration in the streets of the capital city of Tehran, and on social media, where many posted ‘selfies’ in front of TVs tuned into a broadcast about the deal. A long – awaited response by the supreme leader, conservative cleric Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who holds more power than the country’s president, turned out to be positive. Ayatollah Mohammad Emami-Kashani, a hardline cleric, said Khamenei backed the negotiations, and applauded the participants as “firm, wise, and calm” during a weekly sermon at Tehran University. However, he tempered this approval by adding that Iran would hold up its end of the arrangement, only if the West does the same: If you break a promise, then Iran will break its promise.”

Saudi Arabia, though publicly showing restrained acceptance of the tentative pact, remains a foe of Iran, and this past week began an aggressive bombing campaign in Yemen against Shi’ite Muslim Houthi rebels supported by Iran. The Saudis and other Sunni Muslim states are convinced that, Iran, which is the predominant Shi’ite Muslim influence in the region, is using the Houthis for a power play in Yemen. King Salman of Saudi Arabia conveyed his hope in a conversation with Pres Obama by phone, that the final agreement will “strengthen the stability and security of the region and the world”.

The most ardent opposition to the deal came from Israeli PM Netanyahu, who warned that implementation of the JCPOA with its current foundation, would “increase the risks of nuclear proliferation in the region and the risks of a horrific war.”  He clearly stated the basis for his safety concerns for Israel, “I want to make clear to all. The survival of Israel is non-negotiable,” he said. “Israel demands that any final agreement with Iran will include a clear and unambiguous Iranian recognition of Israel’s right to exist.”   Israel’s hostility concerning the deal stems from its mistrust that Iran would follow through, and that somehow this deal would legitimize Iran’s nuclear program which Israel views as almost certainly militaristic. The relatively short time period, just fifteen years, which would prevent Iran from attempting nuclear weapon – grade applications, is a primary sticking point. Some analysts contend that Israel will be likely to disapprove of ANY deal made with Iran, no matter how strict its parameters. Netanyahu convened a special session with his security cabinet on Friday in order to more closely examine the framework of the interim agreement. The consensus of this meeting also belies the prime minister’s ongoing  bitterness about being excluded from the negotiations in Switzerland. After the meeting, the prime minister issued a statement, saying I want to make clear to all: the survival of Israel is nonnegotiable. Israel will not accept an agreement which allows a country that vows to annihilate us to develop nuclear weapons, period. Some say the only alternative to this bad deal is war. That’s not true. There is a third alternative — standing firm, increasing the pressure on Iran until a good deal is achieved.” 

For the US to even get to the point of negotiations with Iran required breaking down barriers which decades of steeliness between the two had produced. Iran stands slightly apart from other Middle Eastern nations, in that it has a history of democracy. In fact, the US and Iran were allies during the rule of the Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, whose reign brought a mixed bag of oppression and progress, including the so – called White Revolution, which intended to thrust Iran into a position of global power. His policies promoting secularization, modernization, and even women’s right to vote, caused a great deal of controversy amongst the more conservative clergy, and overall were quite unpopular. He was deposed in 1979, when the Iranian Revolution brought about the Islamic Republic of Iran under the leadership of Ayatollah Khomeini, who became the supreme leader, a title granted him under the new constitution. This is the marker for the cooling of relations between the two countries, as the Ayatollah was known for his fervent anti – American sentiment.

Since the revolution of 1979, the US and Iran have engaged in struggles which often took place covertly, in part due to their questionable nature. During the 1980s and the Iran – Iraq war, the United States backed Saddam Hussein with intelligence and arms by removing Iraq from the State Sponsors of Terrorism list in 1984, while simultaneaously ADDING Iran. Later it was discovered that Pres Reagan had sold weapons to Iran, effectively playing both sides of the coin during the conflict. Much further down the road in 1995, then Pres Bill Clinton effectively ended trade by American companies with Iran when he imposed a total embargo on any entity doing business with the Iranian government. Restrictions against publishing or collaborating with Iranian scientists, punishable by prosecution, were imposed by the US Treasury Dept in 2004, though several well – respected scientific institutions have refused to comply citing a constitutional violation of freedom of speech.

The UN Security Council initiated sanctions in 2006 when Iran was non – compliant with demands by the IAEA to halt all enrichment – related activities, and even froze the assets of business and individuals with nuclear industry ties. These freezes were expanded on and an arms embargo was added in 2007. The UN again augmented their restrictions in 2008, to include monitoring of individuals and bank activity, and inspection of Iranian ships and aircraft. Further mandates by the UN increased inspections and toughened the arms embargo. Sanctions on Iran, independent of the UN, have been enacted on a global scale in recent years, with European Union provisions being the most restrictive, including an oil embargo, insurance and reinsurance bans, and constraints on the energy, technology, foreign trade, and financial sectors.

Sanctions have certainly had an adverse effect on Iran’s economy, but the humanitarian impact has arguably been worse. Due to import bans and banking sector restrictions concerning electronic dealings, the Iranian people have faced a severe shortage of pharmaceuticals and medical supplies, with hemophiliacs, those dependent on dialysis, those living with MS, and cancer patients facing life – threatening situations. Though waivers are in place for this reason, they don’t function because sweeping restrictions on banking and ‘dual – use’ chemicals which could have military implications, simply override them. In 2012, The Guardian reported the case of a hemophiliac teen whose death was a direct result of sanctions because medicine which would have saved him was simply unavailable. Some pharmaceuticals desperately needed are almost exclusively manufactured by the US and EU, which has brought to light the ethical conundrum concerning the use of punitive sanctions against an entire country, when in fact, the intended target is its government and leaders.

We are an international community, linked by shared human experience, and whether we choose to acknowledge it or not, as a whole we are FAR more similar than different. Our geographic separation might constrain us, but the arbitrary geopolitical lottery of our nationalities should not. The negotiations with Iran should remind us that we aren’t obligated to like or approve of everyone we must deal with, but tact, diplomacy, and respect in our encounters with each other might give us the benefit of mutual acceptance. It is from that place of acceptance where honest and meaningful change begins to occur.

(Feat. Image: Getty Images)


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