December 01, 2013

  People’s Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of
India (Marxist)


No. 48

December 01, 2013



and the P5+1 Accord


Prabir Purkayastha


THE negotiations
between Iran and nominally P5+1, but
in reality the US, have led to an interim accord in
which Iran will temporarily
restrict its nuclear program and the US will ease some
of the sanctions on Iran.
This is prelude to a permanent agreement which will
spell out the terms on
which Iran
can continue its
enrichment program and the complete lifting of all
sanctions on Iran.


While we must all
be happy that instead of the daily
threats of bombing and another invasion of a West Asian
country by the US
and its allies, we have some promise of
peace, the path to a complete understanding on Iran‘s
nuclear program still
remains rocky. The spoilers could be Israel,
where Netanyahu has already threatened the accord, Saudi Arabia which
earlier wanted the US
to bomb Iran and
of course the US Congress,
whose cooperation Obama will need to lift the sanctions.
One should not forget
that a number of international treaties and agreements –
climate change,
Comprehensive Test Ban, etc – have all been held hostage
to the domestic
politics of the US.




The key features
of the interim accord are a) Iran temporarily
halting the expansion of its
fuel enrichment program b) stopping further activities
on the Arak
heavy water reactor, c) not going beyond
5% enrichment for these six months and d) converting the
already enriched 20%
uranium into either uranium oxide or dilute it back to
5%. In return, the P5+1
countries agreed to ease sanctions of about 7 billion
dollars in this six month


The key elements
of the interim accord show that both
sides have conceded very little. Iran‘s
nuclear program was not meant for a weapons program, a
fact conceded even by
the US
intelligence agencies. It was for developing nuclear
capability and asserting
its right under the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty
(NPT) to the complete fuel
cycle. It was the US
and Israel
that have sought to conflate nuclear
capability with nuclear weapons and have been asserting
that Iran
does not
have the right to the nuclear fuel cycle. All their
actions have been based on
denying Iran
nuclear capability. In their view, it is nuclear
capability that brings about a
strategic parity between Israel
and Iran.
And that means accepting that Iran
would be a regional player in the region on par with Israel.


Iran‘s enrichment to
20% level was due to the US
fabricated fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor as it
was originally contracted
to do. And without a functioning Tehran Research
Reactor, Iran
would not
be able to provide radioactive isotopes vital for cancer
treatment and a host
of other medical diagnostics.


Iran therefore
agreeing to convert its existing stock of
20% enriched fuel is not a concession; it is what Iran
was doing already – fabricating
fuel plates for the Tehran Reactor. It does not need 20%
enrichment for its
other reactors. What it has conceded is that it will not
expand its current
enrichment program or its activities on the Arak
heavy water reactor. The Arak heavy water
is again a research reactor, meant to take over from the
ageing Tehran Research
Reactor, which is due for retirement. As any heavy water
reactor, it produces
plutonium. However, to extract weapons grade plutonium,
has to
construct a new fuel reprocessing plant and further
facilities, none of which
it is constructing. Bringing Arak
reactor into
discussions of a weapons program was always bad faith on
part of the US and
allies.  The
recent antics of the French
over Arak makes little
sense unless it was a
ploy for France
to curry
favour with Israel
and Saudi


In return, the US
and its allies have agreed to suspend some minor
sanctions on Iran and
repatriate an agreed amount of its frozen funds. It has
been estimated that the
benefits to Iran
would be of the order of $ 7 billion. Considering that Iran‘s frozen assets
itself are of the order of
$100 billion, this is pocket change for Iran.
Nevertheless, it does give
some breathing space to countries like India,
who have been hampered in their oil imports from Iran
by sanctions on companies that
have to insure the tankers carrying oil.


The US
has tried to portray the interim agreement as a major
victory. Obama claimed
that this is the first time that Iran
has agreed to halt its
development of nuclear weapons program. As Iran
has always claimed that its program was completely
peaceful and has always been
willing to put all elements of its program under IAEA
safeguards, this is of
course a US
victory over Iran
in a war that Iran
never fought. Obama is also
wishing away that it could have secured a better deal
out of Iran
in the earlier round of discussions in
2003-2005, and also when Brazil
and Turkey
had negotiated a
deal which the US
had earlier agreed and then subsequently rejected. What
wanted is its right to the fuel cycle as its right under
NPT.  Not
only has the US
conceded this right in the
interim agreement, but the words in the final end-state
as spelt out also talks
about “a mutually defined enrichment programme with
practical limits and
transparency measures to ensure the peaceful nature of
the programme”. In other
words, the US
has conceded Iran‘s
to the fuel cycle, the only issue for discussion is the
limits and what kind of
inspections IAEA would carry out.


While the accord
is indeed welcome, the difficulties
in the path of final negotiations should not be
underestimated. As we saw in
the Iraq
case, inspections can be intrusive and it is possible to
continuously enlarge
these inspections to include all major military
installations. This could allow
the US
to map with exact GPS
precision (all it needs is a smart phone to be carried
by an inspector) every
significant military infrastructure that Iran
possesses. It is this kind of
inspection fishing that Iran
disallowed earlier that was made out to be Iranian
intransigence. The threat of
using IAEA inspections to do straight-forward spying and
mapping Iranian
infrastructure for pin-pointed strikes still remains a
threat  and
could lead to break down of future talks.
The final bounds on Iran‘s
enrichment programme could also be a deal breaker.


Coupled with this,
is the possibility of the US
Congress can itself scuttle the talks; either to spite
Obama or to help Israel.
All it
needs is to impose fresh sanctions on Iran.
Given the influence that
AIPAC and Israel
carries on Capitol Hill, this would be an immediate deal
breaker. While Israel
like this to happen, its ability to bend the US Congress
to its will has
weakened recently. Neither over Syria
nor over Iran,
does it seem
that there is an appetite in the US
for further military ventures
abroad. And the US Congress has to decide whether it
should show allegiance to
the Zionists at home and in Israel
or to the desires of ordinary Americans for peace. 


The two casualties
in Iran
peace process are Israel
Netanyahu has embarrassed himself on numerous occasions
by his statements on Iran. The
was his hand drawn childish sketch about how near Iran
was to the bomb which he
displayed in the UN. At one stroke, now Iran
has dropped considerably below
his “danger mark”. Any sane person would have thought
that Iran
going so
far below danger mark would be welcome from Netanyahu’s
viewpoint. Not so.
Instead, he has called the interim accord a historic
mistake. What this brings
out is that Israel
is not
interested in any peace accord; it wants the US
to bomb Iran
to the stone age so that it can be the only military
power in the region. The
nuclear issue is only an excuse; if it was not there,
some other issue –
chemical weapons, biological weapons – would have been
whipped up as it was in Iraq‘s
WMD’s have a nice ring, no matter what the reality is.




Saudi Arabia has now embarked
on a very dangerous path. It is
openly backing Sunni fundamentalism or Takfiri/Wahabi
Islam all over the world
and arming military groups in Syria,
and Lebanon.
it is unlikely to succeed in a regime change anywhere in
the region, its
ability to impose destructive wars should not be
underestimated. Saudi Arabia
with its huge cache petro-dollars remains a potent
threat not only in the
region but also to countries outside.


Why should such
small concessions on either side add
up to such a major news event? For this, we have to look
at the larger picture.
and the US have
been in
a cold war after the fall of Shah of Iran. Iran
has not forgotten how the Shah was installed in power by
the US
Mossadegh’s government in the 1953 coup for wanting to
nationalise the
Anglo-Iranian oil company. Neither has the US
forgiven Iran
overthrowing the Shah and holding the US
diplomats hostage in Tehran.
So this accord is a significant turn in the relations
between Iran
and the US. It is
the larger atmospherics
that such an event creates that makes rewinding the war
campaign more


For India,
the Iran
accord is welcome for many reasons. It eases the burden
of oil imports and
makes it easier to continue its commercial relations
with Iran.
Hopefully, India‘s
two votes in the IAEA, which were admitted by US
officials themselves to have
been extracted through coercion, will now be forgotten.
needs to have good relationship with Iran
if it
wants to be recognised as a player in the region.