By Brig Asif Haroon Raja
The interim nuclear deal signed between Iran and P5 plus 1 in Geneva on November 24 has apparently defused the explosive situation in Middle East. It has been widely hailed as the triumph of diplomacy. President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Javed Zarif are being applauded for their pragmatism and for averting a catastrophic war in the making. High sounding names such as historic, momentous, landmark, and so on and so forth are being subscribed to the deal. The fact of the matter is that it was not diplomacy but application of sustained coercive and bullying tactics coupled with covert operations by USA and its allies that paved the way for the so-called momentous deal.
The deal could not have materialized without the regime change in Tehran. President Hassan Rouhani who replaced Mahmoud Ahmadinejad after elections in Iran in last June and took office in August with the help of US backed reformists and centrists has set the ball rolling by coming to terms with the great powers. He chose to make the decade long inflexible stance on nuclear program more flexible by offering a compromise formula to USA, China, Russia and western powers. His government arrived at this decision after deliberating that policy of confrontation has not only isolated Iran internationally but has also seriously impacted its economy and in turn added to the hardships of the people.
Rouhani’s ‘heroic flexibility’ was welcomed by world powers and both sides have in principle agreed to follow the path of accommodation and reconciliation. The US has reciprocated despite serious concerns of its allies because of its own multiple woes. Its adventures in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya have boomeranged and it had to grudgingly unload Tomahawk cruise missiles poised to strike Syria. While its economy is in crisis, it has yet not been able to create conducive conditions for safe exit of US-NATO forces from Afghanistan. Talk of China or France replacing USA in the foreseeable future is in the air. Under the circumstances, the US can ill-afford to open up another dangerous front.
Efforts to make a diplomatic breakthrough had been going on for over a year and Burns, Sullivan, Wendy Sherman and John Kerry were the negotiators behind the scenes while Oman’s Sultan Qaboos was the mediator. Talks were kept secret even from closest allies including Israel and Saudi Arabia as late as end September 2013. The only hindrance was hardliner Ahmadinejad, who was pushed aside and reform-minded Rouhani brought in.
The ice has begun to melt rapidly after 34 years long standoff. The wall of distrust built over these years will not fade away in a jiffy magically, but will take time to revert to normality. To term the deal as landmark and historic may be over optimistic and premature. There are still far too many slips between the cup and the lip. With so many spoilers lurking around and looking for opportunities to sabotage the deal, anything can happen in the next six months. Until the finalization of the deal which is condition based, all concerned should act more prudently and keep their fingers crossed and pray for a better outcome. Obama administration cannot overlook the nuisance value of Congress, Jewish American lobby and Israel and also cannot afford to annoy Saudi Arabia. Unsatisfied with the nuclear freeze, Israel and Congress want to deny Iran the enrichment right for peaceful purposes as well.
It is worth pondering over as to why the US under Obama constantly tried to woo Iran from 2009 onwards and within two months of Rouhani’s takeover, signed the interim deal. It must not be forgotten that Iran is one of the most hydro-carbon-rich country of the world. It is 4th largest oil producing country and its gas reserves are 2nd largest in the world. Geo-strategically, it sits at the mouth of Strait of Hormuz, which is one of the busiest shipping routes and is used by 40% of world’s tankers. If closed, price of crude oil will jump up sky high. Iran’s proven oil and gas reserves give Iran a unique status in the global energy supply. Iran under Reza Shah had devotedly served the interests of USA, west and Israel by acting as the policeman of the Persian Gulf. Owing to its robust economy, Iran could sustain the eight year war with Iraq and prolonged economic sanctions. Economic factor played an important role in keeping the nation motivated and united and in producing effective leaders.
Although sanctions have badly hit oil production capacity of Iran, however, correspondingly it has shot up oil prices in the international market. With the easing of sanctions on oil investment and trade, oil prices would come down. Oil and gas are the two most important items vitally needed to run the industries of the west and of Japan. The US started the global war on terror with the hidden objective of stealing mineral resources of the Muslim world. Thaw with Iran has brightened the scope of western oil and gas barons to acquire contracts for upliftings Iran’s aging gas and oil fields or to explore new ones.
What is important to note is that the Iranians stood behind all their leaders from Imam Khomeini onwards who had adopted the policy of strategic defiance and managed to complete the cycle of Islamic revolution despite Iran being declared a pariah State. Eight-year war in which Iraq was supported by the two super powers, the west and Arab world was fought by Iran single-handed. After every prayer in mosques, Iranians would shout slogans of death to USA and Israel. Hezbollah in Lebanon was supported by Iran to bridle unchecked belligerence of Israel. While the Arabs ignored beleaguered Hamas protecting Gaza Strip from Israeli aggression, Iran aided them. Iranians have now backed the modified stance of Rouhani, and Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has supported the deal. There is no cry of sellout.
Example of Iranian leadership’s defiance is often quoted to shame our pliant leaders with feet of clay perpetually remaining under the magic spell of USA. After destruction and occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq, nobody was sure which country will be the next target of USA. Opinions varied whether it will be nuclear Pakistan or potential nuclear Iran. Those categorizing Pakistan as number one target argued that it would be easier for the US to deal with a divided nation led by weak leadership and fragile economy. Now that Iran has been struck off the list of target countries, Pakistan’s vulnerability has increased manifold.
But the big question is why a Muslim country with nuclear or chemical capability is dubbed as a danger to world peace and why not Israel and India, or the P5 sitting on huge stockpiles of nuclear and chemical bombs. Israel has remained the blue-eyed boy of USA despite its evil doings since its illegal creation in 1948 at the cost of Palestinians. USA and other western powers secretly helped Israel in becoming a nuclear power. Israel is still holding on to Golan Heights and West Bank occupied in 1967 and has quarantined Gaza Strip and is continuing with its forward settlement policy. India’s strategic alliance with former USSR from 1947 to 1991 and its gross human rights violations in occupied Kashmir and against all other minorities in India were ignored and she was embraced by USA and made a strategic partner in 1991. Instead of disabling her weaponized nuclear program and putting a check on her continuously growing conventional military power, the same are being further bolstered by USA.
Iraq’s nuclear plant at Osirik was destroyed by Israeli jets in early 1980s. In order to humble Saddam, Iraq was put under cruel sanctions in 1992 after the first Gulf War, which resulted in deaths of 500,000 Iraqi children. Afghanistan was plastered and occupied in 2001 on the pretext that it had sheltered Osama bin Laden, allegedly involved in 9/11 attacks. No proofs have been provided about al-Qaeda’s involvement. Iraq was destroyed and occupied in 2003 on a false pretext that it had WMDs. Libya under Qaddafi was befriended but after extracting its nuclear teeth, the regime was axed and populist Qaddafi killed. UN weapon inspectors are busy disarming Syria of its chemical weapons, which it had gathered to save itself from expansionist Israel. Now Iran has been hugged after three decades of acute hostility, but at the cost of its nuclear program since it is a Muslim country. The primary aim of the US led west, Israel and India is to keep the Muslim countries disarmed and neo-colonized.
Pakistan has been repeatedly betrayed despite the fact that it faithfully served US interests and never picked up courage to defy US illegal commands. Its declared nuclear program, meeting international standards of safety, has become an eyesore for USA, the west, Israel and India. Will a thaw in Pak-US relations similar to the one with Iran take place without compromising our nuclear capability? Until and unless Pakistan stands on its own feet and makes its economy robust, it cannot earn respect from the world comity.