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Towards a Persian rearrangement

Towards a Persian rearrangement
Six rounds of Vienna talks and the recent bilateral meet with the United States in Geneva later, where is the Iran nuclear deal heading? That is the roughly seven-billion-dollar question hanging overhead the government of Hassan Rouhani, the Persian power’s current reformist president, who’s touted to be a far cry from the walking talking diplomatic nightmare embodied in Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

While arriving at a consensus on the nuclear deal with the P5+1 (five permanent members of United Nations Security Council plus Germany) would be easily the crowning glory of the Rouhani regime, it still seems a distant dream for many observers of international relations.

The Comprehensive Agreement on Iranian Nuclear Programme really picked up after the moderate Hassan Rouhani captured both power and imagination in the last presidential elections held in mid-2013 in the country. The prospective deal is premised upon the interim Geneva Agreement forged on 24 November 2013 between the powers, which has been, in installments, extended to hold good till 24 November 2014.

The Vienna talks and the Geneva meet have roughly laid out the following agenda: a) to allow nuclear proliferation programme to sustain for civil energy needs in Iran; b) to prevent further enrichment of uranium above and beyond 20 per cent, that makes it usable in nuclear weaponry; c) to stop conversion/enrichment of plutonium in Arak heavy water nuclear reactor facility in Iran; d) to free up frozen bonds worth $ 2.8 billion in Iran in exchange for the concessions; e) to compel Iran to agree to daily inspection of all its facilities by the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency; f) lifting of trade and other embargoes on Iran by the US-led West, even though China and Russia (part of  UNSC P5) have maintained normal relations with Tehran all the while.

NUCLEAR BOMB SCARE
The Iran nuclear bomb scare has been a part and parcel of the larger international discourse on the issue, particularly under the mercurial Ahmadinejad, who had not only isolated everyone, including his domestic sympathisers, because of his high-octane pitch, but instilled a real fear of Iran using ballistic missiles against Israel (which he refused to recognise as a legitimate state) or Western countries. Although substantially fabricated, the myth of rogue Ahmadinejad went a long way in impositions of ever-new sanctions and embargoes on Iran, even though Tehran kept insisting there was no nuclear proliferation to build weapons of mass destruction going on in the Iranian nuclear facilities.

However, the run-ins with IAEA and constant lack of compromise on either side, spurred the air of mutual suspicion. This coincided with Ahmadinejad’s own tyrannical brand of national politics, repression of democratic dissent, tampering with 2009 elections, and an arrested turn towards cultural orthodoxy. With Rouhani’s election as the new president, a hope of finally reaching a mutual agreement on the nuclear issue was globally expressed. 

BEFORE AND AFTER 1979

Yet, what must be understood as the decisive background to the nuclear negotiations and Iran-US ties, is the year of 1979, when a coup d’état by Ayatollah Khomeini dethroned the ruling American puppet Shah and sent him to exile. The Shah, who was invited by the US government after a CIA coup against Mohammad Mossadegh in 1953, was essentially a Western stooge whose ‘benevolent dictatorship’ had been the US’s and Britain’s passport to Persian oil.

In fact, the Shah, a dictator, was painted as the Great Moderniser by the friendly American press, while his secular credentials were paraded as the necessary antidote to the Islamists (like Khomeini, among others). Under the Shah, Iran became a country of petrodollar oligarchs while millions of poor suffered in extreme abjection, festering disgruntlement, radicalism and religious obscurantism.

The peak of US-Iran bonhomie under the Shah was obviously the 1973 OPEC oil shock, engineered by Henry Kissinger and envisioned by none other than American billionaire David Rockefeller (who owned three of the Seven Sisters, giant transnational corporations that concentrated the bulk of oil wealth). The OPEC oil shock not only shot up suddenly global oil prices, but also immensely profited the US Big Oil (held by Rockefeller), while West Asian OPEC countries too saw a future floating on the great fuel.

Interestingly, while the US had no qualms about Iran developing nuclear capability under the Shah, post 1979 there was only a pointed hatred mixed with disassociation and disengagement.   

THE US-ISRAEL QUESTION
Jerusalem too has had a role to play in the scheme of things. While Israel-Iran relationship has been a particularly sour one, with either declaring the other a rogue state, out to destroy the other, the stage has especially splintered under the stewardship of Benjamin Netanyahu. Bibi has been relentless in his critique of Tehran, going against even Washington’s reluctant move to engage with Tehran in the wake of global pressure and a climate of hope in the post-Arab Spring intermission.

Bibi has been thoroughly opposed to the latest round of negotiations between Rouhani’s foreign minister Javad Zarif (erudite and spectacularly well-received in western echelons till date) and Catherine Ashton (of European Union) and John Kerry (US Secretary of State), even though international opinion has been thawing gradually. Rouhani, Zarif are expected to hold bilateral meet with Barack Obama and Kerry on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York in September this year.

NEGOTIATION IS KEY
It is crucial to remember that Iran’s right to civil nuclear proliferation is fundamentally designed to meet the energy needs of this powerful West Asian nation, a growing economy and top energy exporter of modern times. Moreover, a sovereign and stable and self-sufficient Iran can suitably direct, influence the course of Greater Middle Eastern politics, which has become the epicentre of seismic shocks, whether in Israel-Palestinian conflict, the deterioration of Arab Spring or the rise of the ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

A moderate and developing Iran could very well be the political template for these unstable regions and the foothold for the Global South, including India, China and Russia, to expand its footprint in the region. After all, multipolarity and sustainable secured energy future are the bedrocks of international diplomacy.
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