It is difficult to measure the immediate impact of signing a nuclear deal with Iran on the war ridden Middle East. The agreement will be signed, and the streets of Tehran will be filled with people celebrating the “great victory” of the Islamic Republic. Iranian authorities count on the planned euphoria to reduce the hardliners skepticism. Indeed, Tehran’s officials see the deal as a “great victory”. They do everything possible to reach the moment of signing the agreement that will give them all what they wanted all along. Less than 10 days before the official end of the negotiations, the Supreme Guide Ali Khamenei, interfered personally to stop an attempt by the hard-liners to derail the deal.
Speaker of Iran’s Parliament Ali Larijani stopped a proposed legislation approved by a vast majority PMs to “safeguard and protect” Iran’s nuclear “accomplishments”. The legislation was approved by 199 parliamentarians and opposed by three while five abstained. The most significant part of the proposed legislation was related to snap inspection of suspected sites. The legislation required that the government includes a clear condition to reject such inspection in any deal. Ending all sanctions upon signing an agreement, refusing any requests to question Iranian scientists and officials working in the nuclear project or to obtain nuclear documents and avoiding any restrictions on nuclear research were also some of the elements of the legislation.
The proposed legislation was modified June 21st. Larijani reminded the members that they have to “listen and obey” whatever the Supreme Guide will say. He particularly rejected a sentence in the legislation that that requires Parliamentary approval of the deal in order to consider it final. The Supreme Guide interfered and at the end, the debate proved to be superficial as the Parliament agreed on a different text that delegate the responsibility of approving the nuclear agreement the National Security Council (NSC), a body that reports only to the Supreme Guide. Larijani used an argument that sheds some light on how Iranian authorities handle the issue of the nuclear deal. He said that the NSC is “not part of the government”, but follows the Supreme Guide directly. “We should not limit the space available to our Supreme Guide to decide. This issue is not similar to selling potatoes! It is a central issue to our country”.
The Supreme Guide has every interest in putting the brakes on any attempt to stop the deal. The agreement mounts to a total surrender to the Iranian plans that have been there all along. Tehran keeps its nuclear program and military arsenal intact, avoids snap inspection, and gets a huge amount of money on top.
Yet, some US Congress members understand that there is something deeply wrong with that deal. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee announced its intention to “Evaluating Key Components of a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran”. Chairman of the Committee Bob Corker, urged the administration to abandon the talks if a final deal doesn’t include “full disclosure” of past weapon related nuclear activities and “the ability to conduct inspections anytime, anywhere,” The administration appears to have mitigated or retreated from these two central demands during recent talks held the last couple of months. Other Congress members are committed to get to the bottom of this issue. The idea is not to reject “any” deal. It is to get a deal that makes sense in terms of contributing to international and regional stability and security.
If one takes a general look at the map of the Middle East, one will find that all the traditional allies of the US oppose the deal. This opposition is not based on whims or emotions. They find that the only country that defied the US for over 35 years, sponsored terrorism, killed Americans in Iraq, Lebanon and elsewhere, broke every rule of the international laws, violated universal human rights systematically, interfered in the internal affairs of many regional countries, this country is helped off the hook with all its missiles and nuclear facilities intact and with all its domestic and regional policies unchallenged, just to prevent it from adding a new weapon, however destructive, to its already destructive political, strategic and military arsenal.
Why would President Obama brushes aside US longtime allies for a country that was, and still is, openly anti-American all these years?
The question has been repeatedly asked in Arab capitals in the last few months. Some officials, and non-officials alike, point to the possibility of an American “big plan” on the global theatre arena. Not likely however. The current conditions of strategic thinking in Washington do not encourage anyone to believe that there is such a plan. But whatever the case, the Middle East will be left with an exonerated Iran, with nuclear potentials and a stuffed arsenal of menacing missiles, and above all with very aggressive regional policies.
What will the US do now when it sees Iran continuing its threatening regional policies after signing the nuclear deal? Most probably, nothing. The US could have incorporated restrictions on Iran’s regional subversive activities and oppressive domestic policies into any nuclear talks. The objective of depriving Iran of a nuclear weapon should have been integrated into a strategy of mitigating Iran’s regional threats. After all, the threat of a nuclear weapon lies in its “use value” so to speak. It is not made to be put in a museum. Looking at it from the angle of its purpose would have led to the inclusion of terms helping the US and its regional allies in any deal that lifts the sanctions. Issues like Iran’s strategic missiles force, its aggressive naval expansion in the Gulf, proxy tools, political and religious incitement against US regional allies and direct military and political intervention in their affairs could have been made part of the negotiations. There are precedents for that in previous talks between the US and the USSR related to East and West Europe.
The US is about to sign an agreement with a country that sponsors terrorism. Due to the absence of any conditions related to terrorism and other threatening policies, Tehran will be in a position to allocate more funds to implement these policies once the sanctions are lifted. According to the US State Department annual report on terrorism “Iran’s state sponsorship of terrorism worldwide remained undiminished” in 2014.
Furthermore, a leaked report addressed to the Congress and dated last January stated clearly that Tehran did not stop its nuclear weapon related activities. “Although Iran has paused progress in some areas of its nuclear program, it continues to develop technological capabilities that also could be applicable to nuclear weapons, including ballistic missile development,” the reports said.
The US government is saying that Iran did not freeze its progress towards the bomb, in spite of its fresh signature on the Joint Plan of Action agreement. And the US government says Tehran still sponsors terrorism, and still violates human rights. But it is the same US government that will sign an agreement that does not even mention that at all.