It was 12 years in the making and frankly many of us never believed it would happen, but just a few hours ago Iran and six major world powers reached a nuclear deal which is worth a global Mexican Wave. The historic deal will mean an end to the cruel sanctions by the United States, European Union and United Nations which have been imposed in stages on the Iranian people since the Islamic Revolution of 1979.
Like most sanctions, the hardest hit were millions of ordinary Iranians while the leaders they were meant to target escaped relatively unscathed. Sanctions rarely work. In Iraq the entire middle class was wiped out financially by the US-driven sanctions which served only to make Saddam and his regime even stronger in the region.
Now, at least, Iran’s 77 million citizens can look forward to a life without sanctions after the country agreed to long-term restrictions on its nuclear energy programme which the West suspected would one day morph into nuclear weapons.
As a visitor to Iran and someone who has spoken with ordinary citizens about their hardships, I know that the lifting of sanctions will mean access to much-needed medicines, especially for cancer sufferers; it will mean spare parts for ageing aircraft and so will make flying much safer; and Persian carpet traders will be able to sell their goods to tourists who will be able to use their credit cards and hole-in-the-wall cash machines. Although Western TV viewers are often spoon-fed on a diet of Iranian street protests with crowds chanting “Death to America”, the reality is that the majority of Iranians admire and emulate some aspects of Western culture and lifestyle, especially among the youth.
You would think, therefore, that the historic end of the negotiations on a successful note would be a cause for universal celebration, especially in the volatile Middle East where good news is scarce, but you’d be wrong; Israel is leading the cabal of those outraged by the landmark deal. Unable and unwilling to conceal his outrage, Benjamin Netanyahu called it a “historic surrender” and immediately began lobbying the hawks and hardliners in America to try and scupper what is viewed as a major policy victory for US President Barack Obama.
I think that one reason for Netanyahu’s bile is that if four permanent members of the UN Security Council – Britain, China, France and Russia – could set aside their differences and, with Germany and America (making up the “P5+1”), come together for the sake of peace, they might now turn their mutual attention to finding a just outcome for the Palestinians. If nothing else, the P5+1 deal has proven that international diplomacy is far more effective than bombs, bullets and sanctions. It is the civilised way to move forward to reach peaceful agreements in an atmosphere of hope instead of hate.
Sadly, according to Netanyahu, the deal is “a bad mistake of historic proportions… Iran will get a jackpot, a cash bonanza of hundreds of billions of dollars, which will enable it to continue to pursue its aggression and terror in the region and in the world.” He insists that Iran is on a “sure path to nuclear weapons.”
Ironically, Netanyahu’s words could so easily describe his own country, Israel. It receives billions of dollars’ worth of aid from US taxpayers which has enabled it to pursue its colonial ambitions and aggression in the region while making threats to those who challenge its illegal actions and human rights violations. Israel also has a nuclear arsenal, the only one in the Middle East, the existence of which it still denies; it has never agreed to access for any weapons inspector, UN or otherwise.
In an act of unashamedly naked aggression, the Zionist state’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Tzipi Hotovely, took to Twitter, promising that Israel would “act with all means to try and stop the agreement being ratified.” The message was directed towards the Republican-controlled US Congress over which the pro-Israel lobby has a profound influence. It’s true that US politicians have a 60-day window in which to scrutinise the deal, but even if Congress votes against it, Obama can veto the rejection. In any event, it would need two-thirds of Congress to override his veto and that would require a Democrat revolt against the president.
This is an unlikely scenario for many reasons, not least his lacklustre performance as a US president who was swept into power on a series of promises which never materialised (and don’t even mention Guantanamo). If history is to look kindly on the Obama Administration he needs some foreign policy success after the spectacular failure of the Middle East peace process, and this deal with Iran looks like it.
The real work and input from Washington began behind closed doors more than two years ago following the election of Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani. Both he and Obama adopted a pragmatic approach which was made easier after Rouhani made it clear in his election speeches that he wanted to see an end to Iran’s diplomatic isolation. The final talks in Vienna were excruciating and involved virtually three weeks of intensive discussions between US Secretary of State John Kerry and Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.
Iran can thus look forward to an economic boom. The state news agency, IRNA, says that billions of dollars of frozen funds will now be released and crippling sanctions on its central bank, national oil company, shipping and airlines will be lifted. This is great news for the Iranian people and bad news for those who’ve suddenly lost their bogeyman. Get over it, Netanyahu.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.