What will the Iran nuclear deal really accomplish?

Published : 6 August 2015, 03:09 AM
Updated : 6 August 2015, 03:09 AM

With all the hubbub of the landmark nuclear deal with Iran and the US, let us also reflect on the sheer horror of August 6, 1945 during World War II. This year will mark the 70th anniversary of America dropping the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan. It was a direct order from US president Harry Truman to scare Japan into surrender. The uranium bomb (Little Boy) weighed about 9,700 lbs (4, 400 kg) and had destroyed about 60% of the city. In the aftermath, 66,000 civilians had lost their lives and many more thousands were grotesquely disfigured and had suffered ailments from radiation poisoning for life.

Three days later the town of Nagasaki (one of Japan's then major ship-building cities) had faced the same fate which had resulted in similar devastation. The atomic bomb 'Fat Man' which weighed about 10,000 lbs had killed 87,000, wounded 60,000 and destroyed 70% of the city's industrial zone.

With the dropping of the bombs America started the first nuclear war.

Since then, under global pressure, the US has been advocating nuclear weapon reduction. Today, closer to 17,000 nuclear weapons in American possession alone remains a potential source of influence and threat. Their destructive power is all too real; the likelihood of misuse remains inordinate and a source of great unease for the rest of the world. Other nations such as Russia, China and North Korea and strategically important nations such as Israel, India, and Pakistan are also heavily armed with nuclear arsenals.

In the twinkling of an eye, with a push button a sinister person who is guarding such weapons can make the world look like Cormac McCarthy's vision of his post-apocalyptic novel, The Road. In the novel, day after the nuclear holocaust, a father and his son walk through a burned America where everything is grey and cold. The 2006 book can be a guide and a grim preview into a possible future for us if a nuclear war happens.

Surely the nuclear powerhouse leaders, especially the American president were not influenced by McCarthy's novel into making a deal with Iran so that it cannot enrich enough uranium to develop a full blown atomic bomb. They have their own agenda in making Iran reduce its nuclear programme to a minimum for medical research purposes only.

Because of the deal, Iran's estimated 19,000 centrifuges (a device that uses chemical principle to isolate one isotope of uranium from another) that are used for uranium enrichment will no longer pose any danger to world security. After months of ongoing discussion led by US secretary of State John Kerry and Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz who oversaw the Iran deal in Lausanne, Switzerland – it is safe to assume that in the diplomatic sense the Iran deal has been a success.

Many experts who took part in the discussion also think that ultimately it was better to have the deal signed by Iran and the US than no deal at all. There is a lot of room for argument about how the deal is flawed etc., mainly the fact that the US didn't get 'anytime anywhere inspection' right or what if Iran cheats? Also the current deal did nothing to address the historic bad blood between the US and Iran.

Columnist Paul Craig Roberts wrote on his blog, 'Despite its gigantic hubris, Washington has figured out that the US cannot simultaneously take on Russia, China, Iran, and the Islamic State. This realization is one reason for the nuclear agreement with Iran. It removes Iran from the mix.'

Based on expert opinion about the agreement, another reason might be 'Iran is opposed to the Islamic State and can be employed as an American proxy against the Islamic State, thus freeing Washington from conflict with Russia and China.'

A third reason for the treaty with Iran could be Europe's dependence on Russia for natural gas. Washington would prefer that Iran ought to supply Europe with energy (as Iran is sitting on top of one of the largest reservoirs of oil in the world) so that they will not have to rely on Russia for their natural gas import. As a result, Europe and the US will be free to pursue their interests in Ukraine without fear of Russian interference. NATO can also take military actions against Russia should it become necessary if Russia invades Ukraine or for other brash actions. Washington's expectation is: by lifting the economic sanctions against Iran will position it to become economically strong and it will be the lead supplier of natural gas and oil in Europe. They see it as a win-win situation for all parties concerned.

The sore loser if the Iran deal is ratified seems to be Israel, the closest ally of the US in the Middle East. In Iran, Israel sees the mortal enemy that can deal it the lethal blow, as it were, to cripple it for a long, long time. Iran, through its clients, the Syrian state, non-state entities such as Hezbollah, the Shia dominated Iraqi state, and powerful Gulf sympathizers have kept Israel on its edge since the 1979 Iranian revolution. A nuclear Iran, as the PM Bibi Netanyahu reminded the world over and over, would sound the death knell of the only Jewish state in history. Israel has vanquished or pacified, through war and diplomacy, almost all its Arab enemies including Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies, Jordan, Egypt, and Iraq. Only Shia Iran remains a thorn in its ambitions for total domination of the Middle East for years to come.

Saudi Arabia is equally at unease with the Shia Iranian ascendancy as it challenges its leadership of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) over Arabs, both Shia, and the Sunni including the minorities. The traditional rivalry of Arabs and Persians have come to the forefront, and shamelessly played upon by the western nations, including their client Israel. A nuclear Iran bodes ill for KSA, as it gives Iran a huge leverage in any power play between the two giants, i.e., Iran and Saudi Arabia.

Israel, seeing an opportunity, has forged an alliance with the KSA in an anti-Iranian platform. The dynamics of the Iran deal, now in the US Congress for approval, is being closely watched by these two power players.

To put to rest the US Congress' suspicion and growing disgruntlement about the signing of the deal, two weeks ago, in an op-ed in the Washington Post Secretary of State John Kerry and Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz wrote, if the international community suspects that Iran has been cheating then the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), a promoter of peaceful use of nuclear power which also includes nuclear weapon for military purposes can ask Iran to give access to the experts to detect any doubtful nuclear activities in any given area by giving them 24-hour notice. This agreement falls under the new nonproliferation treaty.

But the opposing teams of this deal especially the Republican majority Congress is simply not buying this. They argue Iran has an aptitude for delaying such requests up to 24 days by which time they can remove all sorts of evidence. In the past it had done this but got caught during inspection by the international authorities. Sometimes, even after six months, by taking environmental samples one can see microscopic traces of nuclear activities. This time if Iran has any design to cheat they have to do it by beefing up its security system to devoid any suspicion. But outsmarting the international experts will be no mean task.

No deal is foolproof after the parties leave the negotiating table. The international community will never have definite proof to detect whether Iran is cheating or not. This very concern was similarly shared by a leading nonproliferation think tank named Institute for Science and International Security. Their report further perceived that the verification requirements of Iran's nuclear programmes are likely to be adequate for the first 'ten or fifteen years.' But after that Iran might plan to expand its centrifuge programme where they will be able to enrich uranium to a level needed for making an atomic bomb.

On July 23rd, both Secretaries of State and Energy had appeared before a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing to face questions. Some senators asked hilariously dumb questions. I remember one being … Since the US funds a quarter of the 'watchdog budget' then why are they banned as IAEA inspectors in Iran? Kerry kept his cool and retorted, because the two countries lack diplomatic relations, that's why.

Kelsey Davenport, director of the Arms control Association said, 'As an independent organization IAEA's process should not be subject to approval of the P5+1 nations or the US Congress. Nor should the IAEA be forced to disclose sensitive information that could also compromise Iran's legitimate security concerns.'

As an international agency IAEA will only report its findings to the UN Security Council, not the Congress. As it happens the US is a permanent member there.

Congress will break for its annual recess (which they call their 'work breaks') from August 3 to September 4. The lawmakers take this time to meet with their constituents in their home districts or may stay in Washington. When it reconvenes it will demand full explanations and right answers about past Iranian nuclear activities. Its main contention so far has been what is the guarantee that Iran will not secretly keep its nuclear plan going as before? Unofficially, some members are already asking that alongside the presidential hopefuls who are on the campaign trail for the 2016 election.

If Congress rejects the deal, we are back to square one. A great deal of progress has been made, however, and cannot be undone even if the Congress goes against the deal. There is a clearer understanding between the Iranian and US leadership on what's at stake, and what needs to be done in the future. Not all is lost, and future attempts can be made on the shoulder of today's giants such as Obama, who is being now referred as 'the man of peace,' Kerry, Moniz on the US side, and Zarif, Rouhani, and Khomeini on the Iranian side. Let's sincerely hope the deal prevails, making the world hopefully safer.

Iran, from 5th century onward to King Cyrus and King Darius' time was a model and epitome of civilization. Its rich culture and civilization has been a deep-rooted one. It is a strange irony that once a very proud nation, under pressure, had to bow down to the western superpowers as if they are the kings and the rulers of the world. The Iranian leaders had to come to a compromise because of its dwindling economy and growing frustrations of the Iranian people (where sixty percent are under 30 years old).

The hardline Islamic clerics in Iran had to swallow their pride and gave up their legitimate rights as a sovereign nation to expand its nuclear programme. After years of suffering, they finally realized having noble ideals are not enough because a nation cannot sustain on an empty stomach for a very long time.

It remains to be seen what the US Congress ultimately decides. It's anybody's guess.

Zeenat Khan is a freelance contributor to bdnews24.com.