The egos that lie be­hind the Iran deal

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

The in­ter­net is wholly con­fused about the cur­rent deal on the ta­ble with Iran. It’s no won­der. You may ex­pect a range of opin­ions on such a con­tro­ver­sial topic, but the bizarre re­al­ity is that Obama, McCain and Ay­a­tol­lah Khamenei have all de­scribed the raw con­tent of the deal in very dif­fer­ent terms. To get to the bot­tom of this, we need to look at the egos and at­ti­tudes of those in­volved.

Bar­rack Obama has made it his mission to reach a diplo­matic so­lu­tion to limit Iran’s nu­clear pro­gramme and keep the coun­try one year away from pro­duc­ing a nu­clear weapon. Amer­ica has led the ne­go­ti­a­tions along­side Rus­sia, China, France, Ger­many, and Bri­tain, and reached a pre­lim­i­nary agree­ment on April 2; the fine tun­ing and tech­ni­cal de­tails are to be agreed by June 30. Although Obama claims that if the end deal is not in US in­ter­ests, he would re­frain from sign­ing, in his eyes that could be tan­ta­mount to fail­ure and in­crease the risk of war. So, he is try­ing to win over the Repub­li­cans, Is­rael, Saudi Ara­bia, and UAE who are con­cerned about the threat of an Ira­nian bomb to Mid­dle East and global sta­bil­ity.

Obama’s in­sis­tence that sanc­tions will be phased out grad­u­ally only if Iran fol­lows through with the var­i­ous com­po­nents of the deal, is to re­as­sure those who are rightly skep­ti­cal about trust­ing the ex­trem­ist Ira­nian regime. But the US Pres­i­dent isn’t the only sales­man in the equa­tion.

Iran’s lead­er­ship is di­vided be­tween rad­i­cals re­formists with spe­cific agen­das.

The rad­i­cals, namely the Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Coun­cil led by the

and Supreme Leader, Ay­a­tol­lah Khamenei, have adopted a nar­ra­tive whereby the West is determined to crush Iran, and a nu­clear bomb will act as the best de­ter­rent against west­ern in­ter­ven­tion. The re­formists be­lieve that work­ing with the West to abol­ish sanc­tions is the best way to se­cure the coun­try’s present pros­per­ity and are han­dling the ne­go­ti­a­tions, but they are ranked lower than the Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Coun­cil. They are un­der pres­sure to reach a deal that will sat­isfy Khamenei and not be in­ter­preted as ap­peas­ing the West. That’s why we have Ira­nian voices, in­clud­ing Khamenei him­self, say­ing that they will not al­low in­spec­tions and that the fi­nal deal must grant i mme­di­ate re­lief from all sanc­tions.

Obama sees the dis­crep­ancy as a tac­ti­cal is­sue: “There may be ways of struc­tur­ing a fi­nal deal that sat­isfy their pride, their op­tics, their pol­i­tics, but meet our core prac­ti­cal ob­jec­tives.” His po­lit­i­cal ri­vals are far more wary and hard­headed.

Repub­li­can John McCain de­scribed the Supreme Leader’s com­ments as “a ma­jor set­back” and 367 mem­bers of the U.S. Congress ap­pealed to Obama that “ver­i­fi­able con­straints on Iran’s nu­clear pro­gramme must last for decades.” While Obama is con­scious of the chang­ing na­ture of geopol­i­tics and is judg­ing the deal by the re­stric­tions and checks that it will im­pose on Iran over the com­ing decade, many Repub­li­cans are judg­ing the same deal by its longert­erm im­pli­ca­tions. They worry that once the UN, EU and US lift sanc­tions, it will be harder to make the case for im­ple­ment­ing them a sec­ond time round, and Iran could sim­ply con­tinue its nu­clear pro­gramme at a later date.

An­other cru­cial dis­crep­ancy arises from the in­evitable and com­pli­cated tech­ni­cal­i­ties of nu­clear weapons: it is not clear ex­actly how many cen­trifuges and how much en­rich­ment equates to a one-year break out time. Thus, those in favour and those op­posed are drawing on dif­fer­ent ex­pert opin­ion to say how much warn­ing time the same deal would give the West if Iran raced to build a bomb.

If Obama wants to win over skep­tics, he is go­ing to have to clar­ify the break-out time and clear up am­bi­gu­i­ties about the ex­act rate of sanc­tion re­lief in the fi­nal ver­sion of the deal. That’s not to say his crit­ics will like it. But th­ese are cru­cial de­tails. The public de­serves to forge an opin­ion based on the facts and not on the var­i­ous po­lit­i­cally twisted ver­sions of events.

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