Deal Pol­i­tics

At first glance, the Geneva Ac­cord ap­pears to be un­fa­vor­able to Iran

Southasia - - CONTENTS - By Taj M. Khat­tak

The Geneva Ac­cord be­tween P5+1 (United States, Russia, United King­dom, France, China plus Ger­many) and Iran is cor­rectly seen as a suc­cess of global diplo­macy in the in­ter­na­tional en­vi­ron­ment, largely vi­ti­ated by the last cen­tury’s pol­i­tics of might is right. To­gether with progress in the Syr­ian cri­sis, it is seen as a wel­come change from Amer­ica’s path of ma­jor mil­i­tary in­ter­ven­tions like Iraq and Afghanistan, which have been costly both in terms of men and re­sources. The role played by Russia in dif­fus­ing these two crises has also her­alded its re­turn to the tur­bu­lent global arena that was in­creas­ingly be­com­ing a uni-po­lar world.

At a glance, the Geneva Ac­cord would ap­pear to be un­fa­vor­able to Iran which has agreed to en­rich ura­nium to a level of only 5 per­cent – good enough for power gen­er­a­tion but well short of an ex­cess of 80 per­cent for nu­clear weapons and 20 per­cent for iso­topes used in medicine. It would al­low reg­u­lar ac­cess to UN in­spec­tors to its top se­cret plants at Nan­taz and For­dow, halt con­struc­tion of a heavy wa­ter re­ac­tor at Arak which has a

po­ten­tial to pro­duce weapon-grade plu­to­nium and pro­vide its de­sign for scru­tiny. It will nei­ther con­struct any new fa­cil­i­ties nor develop nextgen­er­a­tion cen­trifuges.

In re­turn for these con­ces­sions, the West would re­lease Iran’s funds amount­ing to US$ 7 bil­lions which had been frozen due to U.S.-led sanc­tions im­posed af­ter this cri­sis erupted. How­ever, most of the US$ 100 bil­lion stuck up since the be­gin­ning of the Ira­nian Rev­o­lu­tion will re­main un­avail­able. There will be eas­ing of some sanc­tions, Iran’s ac­cess to its gold and sil­ver re­serves, abroad again, per­mis­sion to sell mod­er­ate quan­ti­ties of oil in the in­ter­na­tional mar­ket and pro­cure­ment of spares for its crum­bling na­tional air­line – but no new air­craft yet. There can also be fund­ing for Ira­nian stu­dents abroad.

It is, there­fore, not sur­pris­ing that a fac­tion led by hard­line for­mer Pres­i­dent, Ah­madine­jad has com­pared the ac­cord to the Treaty of Turke­menchy (1828) in which the Qa­jar king ac­ceded to the Rus­sian suzerainty vast stretches of what is present-day Ar­me­nia and Azer­bai­jan af­ter Gen­eral Ivan Pask­ievich threat­ened to over­run Tehran in five days.

The ac­cord will be re­viewed in six months with a view to ham­mer­ing out a per­ma­nent treaty ac­cept­able to all sides. In the mean­time, the deal is likely to have a sig­nif­i­cant im­pact on the old global or­der where Is­rael, Saudi Ara­bia and the Gulf states had stood to gain from Ira­nian iso­la­tion since the 1979 Is­lamic Rev­o­lu­tion. But that may be chang­ing and the prospects of Iran play­ing a more as­sertive role in the re­gion are caus­ing anx­i­ety in Mid­dle East­ern cap­i­tals.

The most vo­cal crit­ics of the deal have been Is­rael and Saudi Ara­bia which had the geo-po­lit­i­cal en­vi­ron­ments in their fa­vor till about six months back. As ma­jor U.S. al­lies in the re­gion, they felt safer as the U.S. spared no oc­ca­sion to talk of ‘all op­tions’. But the U.S. is now seen

as re­tract­ing from that bel­liger­ent pos­ture, leav­ing re­gional al­lies to fend for them­selves against pos­si­ble and emerg­ing threats. Is­rael’s Prime Min­ster, Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu has gone on record as hav­ing called the deal a ‘his­toric mis­take’ and Saudi Ara­bia is quiet af­ter de­clin­ing the UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil’s seat as a re­sult of its dis­en­chant­ment with the U.S. over the Syr­ian cri­sis.

Saudi Ara­bia’s re­gional po­lit­i­cal ri­valry with Iran is also ac­cen­tu­ated by their dif­fer­ent un­der­stand­ing of the same his­tor­i­cal nar­ra­tive of the Is­lamic era in the im­me­di­ate af­ter­math of the demise of Prophet Muham­mad (PBUH). One side hon­ors his­tory the way it hap­pened over 14 cen­turies ago while the other hon­ors his­tory the way it should have hap­pened.

Pres­i­dent Obama has warned the crit­ics of the deal to keep their ex­pec­ta­tions in check since it is not an ideal world. He has put the chances of se­cur­ing a per­ma­nent deal in 2014 at 50-50 at best. The U.S., it seems, would be quite con­tent if Iran can un­der­take ura­nium en­rich­ment of up to 5 per­cent under in­tense and in­tru­sive in­ter­na­tional in­spec­tions. Dif­fer­ent in­ter­pre­ta­tions, how­ever, are al­ready sur­fac­ing with some Ira­nian of­fi­cials de­scrib­ing the 5 per­cent ceil­ing as Iran’s right while the U.S. thinks dif­fer­ently.

Is­rael has also raised the boo­gie of Saudi Ara­bia ob­tain­ing a nu­clear war­head from Pak­istan if Iran vi­o­lates the ac­cord and at some point breaks out to­wards weapon-grade ura­nium en­rich­ment. Is­rael also al­leges that pay­ment for this pur­pose has al­ready been made. What­ever the truth in this claim, it is hoped that Pak­istan does not smear its face black any­more in nu­clear pro­lif­er­a­tion than what has al­ready hap­pened.

Saudi Ara­bia and Is­rael had con­ver­gence of views against the prospect of a nu­clear Iran. But the sit­u­a­tion is chang­ing as Is­rael now faces the dilemma of un­sa­vory

choices be­tween a near-nu­clear Iran and a Saudi Ara­bia on the path to nu­clear ca­pa­bil­ity. Such a sce­nario would bring nu­clear weapons even closer to its bor­ders and is, there­fore, night­mar­ish.

For Pak­istan, the deal spells a re­duc­tion of fur­ther tur­moil on its western bor­der at a time when there is in­suf­fi­cient clar­ity about post-2014 Afghanistan. If the deal is af­firmed later and a way is paved for lift­ing UN-spon­sored ‘ter­ror­ism’-re­lated sanc­tions against Iran, then U.S. pres­sure on Pak­istan for the PakIran gas pipe­line might re­duce. It is prob­a­bly with this prospect in mind that In­dia has once again ex­pressed its de­sire to par­tic­i­pate in the project – more as a spoiler than as a gen­uine par­tic­i­pant.

If the Saudi-Ira­nian ri­valry heats up ex­ces­sively, Pak­istan will be placed in a test­ing sit­u­a­tion where it has al­ways made mis­takes in the past – ig­nor­ing friend­ship of the neigh­bor in the hope of greater div­i­dends from a friend far away. If Pak­istan wants to avoid all-around en­cir­clement by states ei­ther hos­tile or less than friendly, it will be its strate­gic com­pul­sion not to an­tag­o­nize Iran in dirty global pol­i­tics.

Apart from Mid­dle East­ern rulers, there is rea­son­able pub­lic sup­port for the deal in the U.S. where the pop­u­la­tion has be­come weary of wars. As for Iran, there is hardly any pub­lic re­sent­ment against the deal for the time be­ing, mainly be­cause it of­fers some re­lief from bit­ing sanc­tions.

Also, Khamenei has called it a ‘heroic flex­i­bil­ity’ and if the spirit of the ‘fatwa’ is­sued by him, wherein he de­clared nu­clear weapons as ‘haraam’, re­mains un­changed, there should be good prospects for a per­ma­nent ac­cord in a few months.

The writer is a re­tired vice ad­mi­ral and for­mer vice chief of naval staff of the Pak­istan Navy.

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