Unwinding the Iran nuclear deal

By Jonathan Power

September 5th 2017

The big mistake, apparently about to be made by President Trump, in undoing the nuclear agreement made by President Barack Obama with Iran is not just that he intends to go backwards, it is that he doesn’t intend to go forwards. (To be fair, neither did Obama.)

What the Iranians negotiated about was not so much the “bomb” – to be or not to be – but about their pride and their position in the world and their right to become a thriving economic and political power inured from sanctions or military threats. (Sanctions were imposed before the nuclear issue came to the fore.)

The nuclear program was first and foremost about creating leverage so that Iran could regain the sort of respect that the offspring of the Persian Empire once was given. Second, it was about making sure that Iran is not found short when its oil reserves start to shrink. (Iran also has heavily invested in solar energy.)

For Iran, negotiations were a suggestive game of hide and seek, played in front of all-angled, reflecting mirrors. They were not about actually building a bomb or, as we used to say in Pakistan’s pre-bomb days, of being “a screwdriver away from completing a bomb”.

I don’t actually believe that Iran ever had the intention of building a nuclear bomb. But it was not unhappy that the West thought it was. It did want to frighten the West. It did want to forestall what it believes is the Americans’ true ambition – to bring about “regime change”.

Ayatollah Ali Hosseini Khamenei, Iran’s Supreme Leader, has spoken a number of times about how nuclear weapons go against the principles of Islam. Islam is a language of love and brotherhood, not of a nuclear holocaust. I believe him, not out of naivety, but because I know Iran is a deeply religious society and that the ayatollahs take Islamic teaching earnestly. Children are brought up to take values seriously, to love not hate, and to take care of the poor and widowed. War is a last resort. Reading the Koran, nuclear weapons could never be justified.

Iran doesn’t go easily to war. Saddam Hussein inflicted war on Iran for no good reason, other than to demonstrate the muscle of a dictator. Iran had never tried to build up a deterrent against Iraq. (The US and the UK supported Saddam and provided him with weapons.)Read More »

Iranian elections: Another milestone in reformist advance

By Farhang Jahanpour

Since the latest Iranian elections held on 26th February 2016 for the 290-seat parliament (Majles) and the 88-member Assembly of Experts there have been many negative comments about the election results from the usual suspects.

Some people who are fundamentally hostile to Iran, criticize everything that Iran does, regardless of outcome. When the leading Iranian reformist candidate Mohammad Khatami won a landslide election in 1997 and initiated a series of important reforms at home and advocated a dialog of civilizations and even made a remarkable offer to the United States to reach a grand bargain over all the issues of contention, some pro-Israeli groups dismissed him, saying that he had no power.

However, when President Mahmud Ahmadinezhad made a number of outrageous comments, not only were his statements taken out of context and exaggerated, it was said that he posed an existential threat to Israel and the West.

Some people are at least honest about their real motives. During the controversial election in 2009 when Ahmadinezhad was declared the winner over the reformist candidate Mir-Hoseyn Moussavi, some American neoconservatives and Israeli commentators openly said that they preferred Ahmadinezhad because they could demonize him more easily.

“Just because Moussavi is called a moderate or a reformist doesn’t mean he’s a nice guy. After all he was approved by the Islamic leadership,” said Ephraim Inbar, director of the Begin Sadat Center at Bar Ilan University. “If we have Ahmadinejad, we know where we stand. If we have Moussavi we have a serpent with a nice image.” The then Mossad Chief, Meir Dagan, told a panel of Israeli lawmakers: “If the reformist candidate Moussavi had won, Israel would have had a more serious problem, because it would need to explain to the world the danger of the Iranian threat.”

Recently, the staunchly anti-Iranian lobby, The Israel Project (TIP), produced a promotional video showing the leader of the terrorist group, the Mojahedin-e Khalq, denouncing the latest Iranian elections. This is despite the fact that before some right-wing pro-Israeli groups had decided to promote this terrorist group as a popular opposition group, in 2011 TIP director Josh Block had described the group as a terrorist organization. (1) Nevertheless, now his organization calls upon the same group to denounce the Iranian elections.

However, despite all this negative propaganda, the results of the latest Iranian elections exceeded all expectations. The elections set another milestone in the desire of the Iranian people for change and reform following the 2013 presidential election that resulted in the victory of the centrist candidate Hassan Rouhani.

Ever since the victory of the Islamic revolution, the government has held flawed, but competitive and relatively free and fair elections. In order to appreciate the significance of the election results, we should look at some of the obstacles that had been placed on the path of the reformists and moderates.

The right-wing Guardian Council, formed by six clerics appointed by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and six appointed by the head of the judiciary, who is himself appointed by Khamenei, has the job of vetting all the candidates who run for high office in Iran. In the absence of organized political parties, anybody can declare himself or herself a candidate in presidential or parliamentary elections, and normally many unqualified people do so.

Therefore, there is a need for a vetting organization, but the criticism against the Guardian Council is that it does not act in a fair and impartial manner.

During the recent elections,Read More »

TFF PressInfo # 317 – Will Iran kill the nuclear bomb deal?

By Jonathan Power

Iran will find it easier to kill the nuclear bomb deal than will the Republicans in Congress. Why? Because the Republicans need some Democratic senators on their side to override a veto by President Barack Obama of a vote to bury the accord, whereas in Iran all that is needed is the decision of one man, the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Iran is not a dictatorship – voters, parliament and president carry enormous weight but when it comes to the very big decisions it is Khamenei who decides. He has already said there is “no guarantee” of a final deal with the world powers, the US, the EU, Russia and China, who agreed the deal. President Hassan Rouhani, a liberally minded man, has also said that Iran would not sign up unless sanctions were lifted “on the first day” of implementation.

There is enough evidence around to suggest that Khamenei is unhappy with the Americans. Soon after the accord was publicized after the marathon negotiations in Lausanne, he tweeted, “Hours after the talks the Americans offered a fact sheet (of explanation of the terms of the agreement) – most of it was contrary to what was agreed. They always deceive and breach promises.”

To understand where Khamenei is coming from we have to separate the question Read More »