Triumph of Diplomacy

The US may give any twist it wants to, to appease the Zionist entity Israel, but the Iran-P5+1 nuclear agreement is a clear victory for Iran. This agreement is of limited duration – six months – after which there would be a permanent agreement in place. Yes, Iran has had to give a commitment to limit its uranium enrichment and neutralize its entire stockpile of medium grade (20 %) enriched uranium over a six-month period as well as not to add to its stockpiles of low-enriched uranium. Iran has also committed to not installing more centrifuges nor to commissioning its Arak reactor. In return for these concessions, Iran will see no embargo for the period of the agreement and will also see $7 billion in sanctions relief.

So why is it a victory for Iran? First, because after all the threats and coercion, including military threats including from Israel; after all the sanctions; the US was compelled to backtrack and come to the dialogue table with Iran – which had been Iran’s demand all along: to resolve issues through dialogue directly with the US not through surrogates. Geneva saw the US along with the P5 and Germany all talking directly to Iran. This was a major diplomatic victory for Iran which sustained its principled position because its leadership believed in itself and its nation’s cause.  This is the most important lesson for Pakistan today.

As in any negotiation, there was give and take. So Iran agreed not to enrich uranium to medium levels of 20 percent. But it retained the right to enrich uranium to low grades for civil energy needs which was always its stated intent. So was this really a defeat for Iran? Only if it had been serious about making nuclear weapons. However, Iran had never, unlike North Korea, declared its intent of leaving the Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT). In fact the Iranian position had always been that it was simply exercising the rights to pursue its civil nuclear energy programme as it was entitled to do under Articles IV and V of the NPT. That position has been validated by the nuclear agreement.

That is had built up its medium grade enriched uranium supplies which it has to now neutralize – not hand over  which is an important point – is a tactical surrender which Iran was, in my view, prepared for since it kept stressing that it had no intentions of exiting from the NPT. This meant that Iran was committed to not enriching uranium to levels not permitted by the NPT. Iranian leaders from Imam Khomeini on have maintained a posture of condemnation of nuclear weapons and a commitment that Iran would not acquire the same, just as they reiterated their commitment to the NPT. Had the Iranians wanted to leave the NPT they had ample opportunity to do so by giving the required notice allowed for in the Treaty.

Iran has also agreed to give greater access to UN/IAEA inspectors but Iran was already on the verge of ratifying the Additional Safeguards Protocol of the NPT when its nuclear conflict with the US flared up. Subsequently, IAEA inspectors have conducted a host of special inspections in Iran, so this new “commitment” is actually not really “new” at all.

One major concession made by Iran has been the commitment not to commission the Arak heavy water reactor which would have plutonium as a byproduct. But this is a temporary suspension for six months after which there is an expectation of a final agreement. Herein lies the real victory of Iran. It will observe, as will the P5+1, its commitments for six months during which if the US undermines the agreement through new Congressional sanctions Iran can backtrack on its commitments with the onus being on the US. The temporary nature of the deal plus the fact that the Obama Administration does not seek Congressional ratification for it and it can also suspend some sanctions through Obama issuing an Executive Order makes it imperative that all sides live up to the letter and spirit of the agreement. This requires no doublespeak from the US and its allies; nor aggressive moves by the US Congress. Most importantly the US will now have to rein in Israel and its bellicosity against Iran’s nuclear programme.

This nuclear agreement also in many ways isolates Israel on the nuclear issue. Sooner rather than later, the international community will have to bring Israel into the nuclear regime’s loop. Israel’s nuclear programme cannot remain a taboo subject for the international community especially after this agreement with Iran.

Beyond the nuclear issue area, Iran has emerged as a serious regional player proving that it stays committed to its course while negotiating tactically with the international community. At the end of the day the fact that the major international players were brought to the dialogue table by Iran’s consistency of approach sustained by a belief in itself and the rightness of its cause made Iran a player to be taken seriously on critical regional and global issues. We would do well to learn a few lessons of having and sustaining a nationalist position while accommodating concern of the international community – instead of immediately laying oneself prostrate before a bullying super power and the lure of dollars when all that gets one in return is the “do more” mantra and nothing beyond. 

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