The 24 November historic deal reached in Geneva between Iran and the P5+1 (the five permanent U.N. Security Council members -- the United States, China, France, Russia, and the United Kingdom -- plus Germany) has the potential of changing the international geo-politic matrix and creating a new world order.
The development has very important implications for India but that would require a full-fledged commentary on the India-specific aspects of the Iran deal which will follow soon. In this article, I am focusing on the Iran deal per se.
First of all, this must be understood that it is only an interim agreement valid for six months while the two sides stay engaged and try hard to come up with a permanent arrangement. That is the explanation of the word “potential” used in the intro.
There can be many a slip between the cup and the lip and no one can say with certainty th at the Iran nuclear deal won’t be torpedoed by those who are opposed to it tooth and nail. And the list of nay-sayers is very long.
There is Saudi Arabia, the predominantly Sunni country inimical to Shia Iran, as Riyadh believes that ending Iran’s 34-year-long international isolation (which this deal will inevitably do) will downsize Saudi Arabia’s clout in the Islamic world.
There is Israel, a Jewish state which is perpetually paranoid about existential threats to it from Arab and Muslim countries alike, and looks at Iran as perhaps the most potent threat to its survival as a nation. Unlike Saudi Arabia, the Israeli threat perception vis a vis Iran is largely based on security considerations.
Then there are a large number of influential people in the US itself – lawmakers, politicians, diplomats, officials, soldiers, analysts etc – who are opposed to the Iran deal. They would stop at nothing to try to bring the deal to a halt. A bipartisan group of 15 American senators has already opposed the Iran deal and called for imposition of more sanctions on Iran.
Both Riyadh and Tel Aviv are extremely close to the US. The former’s clout over the American system was visible when Saudi Arabia managed to get a special plane take off from the US to Riyadh in the immediate aftermath of 9/11.
The Israeli grip over the American system is too well known and is best illustrated by the fact that whereas the Americans have been hunting for non-existent nuclear weapons in Iraq, Iran and elsewhere, they have kept quiet about Israel’s own nuclear weapons.
This is the real threat and a very important X factor in the fast evolving situation. The extremely aggressive outbursts by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are not a flash in the pan and may not be just diplomatic bluster. He described the Iran deal as a ‘historic mistake’ which had made the world a “more dangerous place”.
But wait! The Israeli PM did not stop here. Hours after the news of the Iran deal broke out, he told his cabinet in Jerusalem that Israel would use military action against Iran, if needed. Significantly, he also remarked that Israel “has the right and the duty to defend itself by itself."
Iran’s sworn enemies know that the Geneva deal would be a game changer for Teheran and the Iranian economy, muzzled by crippling sanctions, could turn around in a few years. The immediate impact of the deal would bring a bounty to Teheran as frozen Iranian assets in the US and elsewhere get unfrozen. The estimates of these sums range from $ 7 billion to $ 20 billion.
For years Iran has been weighed down under sanctions which have originated from three sources – the United Nations, the United States and the European Union. Under the interim deal, Iran will now be authorized to resume trade in oil, gas, gold and numerous other lucrative areas.
The economic gains alone are enormous and spectacular, not to talk of the political and diplomatic clout Iran is set to achieve if the deal becomes a permanent arrangement.
There were days when Iran was in a snake pit and an international pariah; but not any longer. Today Iran has a tight stranglehold on two more Shia-dominated nations – Iraq and Syria. Moreover, Iran is deeply entrenched in Lebanon and has pockets of influence in several Islamic nations, including Afghanistan.
Besides, Iran has maintained a very vibrant and close friendship with China and Russia. The world has seen what the Vladimir Putin-led Russia did to salvage the once hopeless situation in Syria which not too long ago was almost hurtling down the path of disastrous regime-change.
If Syria was an indirect victory for Iran and check to Iran’s foes like Saudi Arabia and Israel, the deal in Geneva is a direct and comprehensive victory for Iran and a potential mate to its enemies on the political chessboard of the Middle East. Iran’s stars are on the ascendance in the highly volatile Mideast region which has a population of 500 million.
Before the nuclear deal, Iran had a stockpile of 11,000 usable centrifuges, which it can still keep but not add more centrifuges to. This effectively means that at least for now, Iran retains the technology and material to produce fuel for a nuclear weapon.
Iran has been enriching uranium to 20 percent and has the technology to enrich it to 90 percent, the threshold for weapon-grade uranium, though the Iranians are not known to have done it yet. Under the deal, Iran has agreed to stop enriching uranium above 5 percent and dilute its existing stockpile of 20 percent uranium.
Iran also gets to keep its heavy-water reactor at Arak, though it cannot operate it.
All this is a doomsday scenario for Israel. It is in this context that the livid remarks of the Israeli premier should be seen.
The US will find it difficult to rein in the Israeli aggressive intent. The American intelligence agencies must keep a hawkish eye on Israel, a country which is known to have possessed nuclear weapons since 1967.
The American media is full of reports to this effect and how the then Israeli Prime Minister Levi Eshkol had reportedly ordered the assembly of two crude nuclear devices that could be raced on trucks toward the border with Egypt during the 1967 Israel-Arab War if Israel were to face an existential threat.
Surprisingly, while Washington has been obsessed with defanging nuclear weapon programmes all over the world – Iran, Libya, North Korea – it has conveniently been turning a blind eye for decades to Israel’s nuclear arsenal which reportedly possesses at least 80 nuclear warheads and enough fissile material to build 200 more at short notice.
Keeping Israel quiet would be on top the Obama administration’s agenda. It would indeed be a supreme irony if Israel were to launch surgical strikes, conventional or nuclear, on Iran’s nuclear sites.
*The writer is a Firstpost columnist and a strategic analyst who tweets @Kishkindha.
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Updated Date: Nov 27, 2013 10:27:25 IST