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Iran Deal and Future of Middle East Featured

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Mustafa Folami writes that Iran’s ‘historic agreement’ in Vienna has the potentials of keeping the Middle East peaceful, though skeptics of peace in the region have not indicated any resolve to give the deal a chance.    

Condolezza Rice, the former American secretary of state, was known to be a tidy negotiator at the nuclear negotiation talks on the nuclear activities on the Nantanz province. She dangled some carrots at the Iranians which they did not bite. it was the last baton of the Bush Era.

Several years after crunching economic sanctions, Vienna was the venue of the next nukes talk in July 2015. In what has been described as the p5+1, six major world powers clinched ahistoric nuclear deal in which iran is likely to see some sanctions removed in exchanged for restrictions to its nuclear programme.

Isreali Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the deal was “a historic mistake” and that it was the result of the world powers - the US, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany - wanting to reach an agreement “at any cost”. As events unfold, can we call it the last dialogue?

The Bottom line

IN 1907, an Anglo-Russia agreement literally partitioned Iran into spheres of influence for the two powers (Britain and Russia). In 1908, oil was struck in Iran by the Anglo-Persia oil company in the first major oil field to be discovered in the Middle East. The strategic importance of oil was henceforth to dominate the politics of European powers in Iran and indeed, the entire Middle-East.

Iran is the fulcrum of an unstable region. It has been a victim of much meddling, but what had led to the dramatic change of event is what begs for answer?

Several decades of windfall of billion of revenue from oil prices, Iran had started its nuclear-enrich programme, funded Hamas and supported Hizbullah in its 2006 war with Israel. It is equally seen to be fighting a proxy war in Yemen. With this underpinning, Iran is under pressure from the “international community”.

Erstwhile Iranian president, Mahmud Ahmedinijad, spoke of the need to wipe out Isreal off the map of the world in an interview with Reuters on May 28, 2006. Shimon Peres, Isreal’s ex-leader, reminded the Iranian that Iran “can also be wiped off the map”.

This face–off, according to reports, drew criticism from across the global divide. Without doubt, this is one of the major sins of Iran and it why the US and other major powers are convinced that Iran is trying to build nuclear weapons. On several occasions, when faced with this question, Iran denies.

Iran had always claimed that like other countries in her neighbourhood who possessed nuclear capability, she is the only one that had signed the nuclear non proliferation treaty. India, Israel and Pakistan are yet to sign the treaty. She argues further that her soldiers were attacked with poison gas during the Iran-Iraq war, and this she never retaliated.

It submitted itself to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty (NPT). It has therefore submitted itself to inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA); the treaty’s watchdog. The IAEA in one of its reports has lambasted Iran on its claims saying it has kept some of its enrichment programmes secret and denies her agents access to military sites. This and other counterclaims led to the Vienna Talks.

The Unfinished Negotiation

The hysteria sweeping the west today over who’s up and who’s down in the aftermath of the Vienna nukes deal can be situated within the Condoleeza Rice diplomatic shuttle in the Middle East. Rice basked in the solace of the Clinton doctrine (which states that the US can use unilateral force to defend its interest). On the face of this, she campaigned for sanctions to be imposed on Iran to scuttle its Uranium enrichment of its nuclear progamme. Several years after given up on Iran as an “outpost of tyranny”, the man who almost scuttled his nomination as the secretary of state nominee was talking with the Iranians.

Senator John Kerry has always made his views known on why American should cultivate the finesse of diplomacy in its foreign policy approach rather than the gun boat diplomacy of the Dick Cheney school of thought. This urbane approach has led to the signing of the peace treaty.  With the signing of the peace accord, Iran has gone from being a member of the “axis of evil” to a country that has successfully negotiated what promises to eventually be an effective end to its international isolalation. And while the agreement’s significance may well ultimately be much greater than simply the reduction of Iran’s centrifuges and stockpiles of enriched uranium and limitations imposed on all aspects of its nuclear industry, this is not an agreement built on trust. Rather, as US president, Barrack Obama noted, it is an agreement built on verification.

President Obama defended the nuclear deal vigorously in a recent speech at the American University. He began by speaking of the ideology that incited and justified the Iraq war of 2003. He called it a ‘mindset’. it was a mindset characterized by a preference for military action over diplomacy; a mindset that put a premium on unilateral action over the painstaking work of building international consensus, a mindset that exaggerated threats beyond what the intelligence supported”.

Obama went on to assert that there was a continuity of persons as well as ideas  between the propagandists who told us to bomb, invade and occupy Iraq in 2003 and those spending tens of millions of dollars to ensure that congress will abort the nuclear deal. The same mindset led to a war that did more to strengthen Iran, more to isolate the United states. Those people have never recognized they were wrong.

On the Isreali Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, he invoked the George Washinghton farewell  address that “permanent, inveterate antipathies against particular nations, and passionate attachments for others, should be excluded,” said Washighton, because “a passionate attachment of one nation for another produces a variety of evils. Sympathy for the favorite nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest in cases where no common interest exists, and infusing into one the enmities of the other, betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter without adequate inducement or justification”.

Writing on the Iran deals, Noam Chomsky, the prolific American scholar opined that opposition within the political class is so strong that public opinion has shifted quickly from the significant support for the deal to an even split. Republicans are almost unanimously opposed to the agreement. They stood on the ground that Iran may still be able to produce nuclear weapons and could someday use one to set off an electromagnetic pulse that “would take down the electrical grid of the entire eastern seaboard” of the United states.

He asserted, across the spectrum, that there is, for instance, general agreement with the “pragmatic” conclusion of General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the joint Chief of Staff, that the Vienna deal does not prevent the United states from striking Iranian facilities if official decides that it is cheating on the agreement”, even though a unilateral military strike is “far less likely” if Iran behaves.

On the other hand, Iran’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Javad Zarif was of the opinion that if the Vienna deal is to hold, the whole of the Middle East must rid itself of weapons of mass destruction. He added that Iran is prepared to work with the international community to achieve these goals, knowing full well that, along the way, it will probably run into many hurdles raised by the skeptics of peace and diplomacy”. Iran has signed “a historic deal”, he continues, and now is the turn of Isreal “hold out”.

Turning to the next obvious question: what in fact is the Iranian threat?

Mustapha Folami

Fulami Mustafa Olawole who hails from Lagos, Nigeria attended Surulere Baptist School, Lagos and Government College, Lagos. A graduate of University of Ilorin, Mustafa is married and presently works as a journalist in Kano.