Triumph of Diplomacy over War: Final Nuclear Deal with Iran Defeats the War Party
By Vojin Joksimovich
Modern Tokyo Times
In April this writer addressed the draft agreement between the six world powers and Iran which represents a remarkably good deal from the nuclear non-proliferation standpoint with a potential of becoming a historic game-changer. The fruitful negotiations between P5+1, five permanent members of the UN Security Council (UNSC), i.e. US, Russia, China, Great Britain and France plus Germany, and Iran were initiated in November 2013, known as the Geneva Accords. Prior to that there were many unsuccessful attempts since 2002, when the Iranian dissident group MEK revealed a bunch of falsified drawings and plans about the Iranian nuclear program. MEK had been on the State Department terrorist list from 1997 to 2012. David Stockman, former Reagan administration Budget Director, characterized “the whole Iran-is-after-the-bomb narrative as just WMD 2.0.” Weapons for Mass Destruction (WMD) 1.0 version is of course that of false intelligence claims against Saddam Hussein, which led to the US/UK invasion of Iraq resulting in over half a million fatalities and millions of refugees including hundreds of thousands of Christians. Nobody has been held accountable for those Iraqi war crimes.
Praise goes to all negotiators in particular to President Obama and Secretary Kerry as they have faced formidable US Congressional and Israeli disapproval. It represents a major victory over the war parties in Washington and Jerusalem. Stockman wrote: “I have rarely found anything President Obama has done to be praiseworthy …But finally he has stood up to the War Party—and that could mark a decisive standpoint in rolling back Washington’s destructive interventionism and imperial pretensions in the Middle East and indeed, around the world.” I will also re-quote investigative journalist Robert Parry’s statement. “It marks a crossroad that offers a possible path for the American Republic to regain its footing and turn away from endless war.”
Highlights of the Accords
The P5+1 primary objective was to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. Dismantling the nuclear program was totally unrealistic as the Iranian nuclear infrastructure has been built over more than a decade with a multi-billion dollar investment. The western negotiators have compromised to allow Iran to continue a scaled down enrichment program subject to intrusive IAEA inspections. The P5+1 approach boiled down to extending Iran’s “breakout capability”—the time needed to produce sufficient amount of weapons grade uranium (~90% enriched) for one nuclear weapon. The current estimate is a couple of months, which would be extended to at least a year and to maintain it at that level for a decade or so.
Iran has agreed not to build a nuclear weapon it had already decided not to build. Iran didn’t want to be viewed a pariah state like North Korea nor did it want to be bombed by the US like Iraq was in 2003. The US intelligence had asserted that Iran had no bomb program, which prevented former president Bush 43 from bombing Iran.
Iran has agreed that over the next 15 years it will not enrich uranium above 3.67% and will not stockpile more than 300 kg of enriched uranium. Uranium R&D activities will only take place at Natanz, while no enrichment will be carried out at Fordow. In addition, Iran has agreed indefinitely not to build any new heavy water reactors or stockpile heavy water, and that the Arak reactor will be redesigned and all used fuel will be shipped out of the country.
In return, economic sanctions will be lifted, including release of some $100 billion in freed assets, once the IAEA confirms that Iran has complied with its obligations under the agreement. The IAEA’s report will be submitted for the action of the IAEA Board of Governors by December 15 this year. A road-map for “clarification of past and present outstanding issues” regarding Iran’s nuclear program was agreed upon including a separate arrangement regarding the Parchin issue, which paves the way for the resolution of the controversy which has lasted for over a decade. Iran has decided to implement the Additional Protocol to its Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement with the IAEA. The critics have lambasted the confidential Iran/IAEA agreement and invented a narrative of side agreements not to be reviewed by the US Congress. However, confidentiality is the way IAEA does business with member countries.
The final version of the deal includes suspension of the 2010 UN arms embargo (covering tanks, armored combat vehicles, attack helicopters, combat aircraft, warships, etc.) after 5 years and the ballistic missile embargo (any activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons) after eight years.
All these restrictions represent Iranian concessions. The Iranians gave up most of what they had. However, the Iranians might have arrived at the same conclusion as Prof. John Mueller in his remarkable book Atomic Obsession that for the most part the nuclear weapons have proved to be militarily useless. Over the decades a large number of countries capable of developing nuclear weapons have chosen not to, e.g. Brazil, Argentina, South Korea, Sweden, Taiwan and others, while South Africa, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan have surrendered and dismantled an existing nuclear arsenal.
UN Security Council and EU Endorsement: Corker-Cardin Act
As the first step in the agreement implementation the UN Security Council unanimously endorsed the deal (15:0), which comes into effect in 90 days. The EU with its 28 members unanimously endorsed the agreement too. The UN resolution was adopted under Chapter VII of the UN Charter legally binding all member states, US included. Assuming that the Congress can muster a veto-proof majority to block the president’s ability to deliver sanctions relief the administration might be unable to comply with the international obligations it has created.
The Congress has two month to review the agreement (until September 14) and vote on it. The Corker-Cardin act surrendered the requirement of the constitutional requirement that the president obtains a Senate super-majority to go forward with a major international agreement. The act requires a veto-proof majority in both houses of Congress to block elements of the deal related to the sanctions relief and does not require congressional approval for the agreement in its entirety.
Avalanche of Republican Criticisms
Despite remarkable nuclear non-proliferation accomplishments, the agreement has resulted in an avalanche of criticisms, mostly from the Republican members of the Congress and from Republican Presidential candidates. The criticisms range from reasonable skepticism to those this writer would characterize as absurd. During the hearings in the Senate only one senator, Jeff Flake from Arizona, stuck to technical questions and a non-confrontational tone.
Several presidential candidates excelled in absurdity of their statements starting with Lindsey Graham who asserted that the deal is a “death sentence for the State of Israel.” Governor Huckabee went even further after lambasting President Obama’s foreign policy as the most feckless in American history: “By doing he will lead the Israelis and march them to the door of the oven.” The Jewish groups across the country, while critical of the deal, reacted negatively. Jonathan Greenblat, national director of the Anti-Defamation League said: “To hear Mr. Huckabee invoke the Holocaust when America is Israel’s greatest ally and when Israel is a strong nation capable of defending itself is disheartening.”
Governor Scott Walker said that his first act as president would be to kill the deal. On the other hand he refused to go along with Huckabee’s remark. Senator Tom Cotton called John Kerry Pontius Pilate. Senator Ted Cruz suggested that president Obama is the leading state sponsor of terrorism. At a senatorial hearing the Obama administration was accused of being “fleeced” and “bamboozled” by Iranian diplomats. Former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney writing in the Wall Street Journal made a baseless statement “If the ayatollahs have a nuclear weapon, they will use it. Now they’re on the path to get one.”
The polls suggest that the American public is supportive of the deal. Hence, the Republicans seem to reflect the Washington and Jerusalem War Party interests rather than those of the American public. This of course is nothing new and represents an established pattern in the flawed US foreign policies since the end of the Cold War.
A congressional vote to kill the deal would leave the US isolated and humiliated as other signatories of the deal would lift the UN sanctions. The German vice-chancellor with a group of businessmen raced to Teheran the next day after the deal was announced. France followed with the French foreign minister several days later. The US companies are, however, staying out.
Republicans do not seem to understand that there is a new Middle East after the Arab spring. This applies to the fall of half a dozen regimes, the rise of the Islamic State (IS) and al-Qaida, civil wars in Iraq, Syria, Libya and Yemen. The US principal enemies are IS and al-Qaida, both being aided by former allies: Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar but resisted by Iran. Iran was the key US ally in the Middle East until the 1979 Khomeini revolution. Germany was the US enemy in both WWI and WWII and now is the key NATO ally. President Nixon forged a detente with Mao’s China, President Roosevelt partnered with Stalin during WWII, and Reagan negotiated a strategic arms deal with the USSR.
Impact on Israel
Pat Buchanan wrote: “How is Israel, with hundreds of atom bombs, mortally imperiled by a deal that leaves Iran with not a single ounce of bomb-grade uranium.” The British foreign secretary slammed Israel’s opposition: “Israel doesn’t want any deal with Iran. It wants a permanent state of stand-off.” German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier was also critical saying the agreement will help contribute to security in the Middle East. “This is responsible deal and Israel should also take a closer look at it and not criticize the agreement in a very coarse way.”
On the other hand Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has described the deal as a “stunning historic mistake,” and said it would enable Iran to pursue a path to nuclear weapons. It should be remembered that Israel adheres to the Begin Doctrine, Israeli Middle East nuclear monopoly: 1981 bombing of Iraqi nuclear reactor under construction, 2007 bombing of a Syrian reactor. “Israel will not tolerate Nuclear Weapons in the region.” Hence, Israel has been pushing for military actions in Iran and would like the US to do it for them based on recognizing the superior military capability.
It should be noted that former Israeli Prime Minister Barak said that Israel can live with a nuclear Iran.
Impact on Saudi Arabia and Gulf States
For months Saudi Arabia was critical of the talks, but once the deal was reached it became supportive with reservations how the deal would be implemented.
Way Forward: Accept the Accords
Nicholas Burns, undersecretary of state during the Bush 43 administration, who was the point man on Iranian nuclear matters, advised acceptance of the deal, “imperfect as it is,” as the best option available on the nuclear front and move promptly onto a “parallel track” strategy of containing Iran’s regional ambitions with a heavy dose of US leadership.
Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov stated that the Iran nuclear deal has paved the way for a “broad” coalition to fight IS and other terrorist deals. The EU foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, said that the deal “opens the way for a new confidence” in combatting IS.
Vojin Joksimovich, a nuclear engineer is the author of three books and 120 articles/blogs on world affairs
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