CASMII Statement on Iran and the P5+1 Deal: Prospects for Lasting Peace

Introduction

The nuclear deal signed between Iran and the P5+1 countries on July 14, 2015, and the subsequent UN Security Council resolution passed on July 20 are the first major steps taken by the United States and its allies toward a peaceful relationship with the Islamic Republic of Iran. These steps represent a crucial turning point from the neoconservative dominated interventionist policies that came into full force by the previous American administration, and continued in various forms within the current one.

While the deal has been vigorously criticized on both sides, the willingness to cooperate to resolve differences without resorting to force is ultimately a victory for citizens of both countries and those of the region. The agreement could be the first of a series of steps that may lead to true peace and cooperation between Iran and the United States. Even now, however, this small step is in danger of being sabotaged by the same powerful forces that constantly seek to promote hostilities with Iran. The Western media narrative is still dangerously shortsighted and inflammatory. Decades of biased demonization without any balancing response have created much fear, disinformation and mistrust to be exploited by the pro-war forces exactly as it was done with the disastrous Iraq war in 2003.

It is with this reality in mind that we set to provide some of the missing context crucial to understanding this deal and the Iranian behavior in general. We hope that peace-loving voices in the independent media would make good use of these facts in order to save this fragile step toward a more peaceful future.

A History of Lies and a Manufactured Crisis

Two seemingly contradictory trends have been dominant with respect to Iran’s nuclear question. First, for decades Iran has been accused of not just developing nuclear weapons but being a short time away from actually using them [1]. Second, non-political nuclear experts, including those at the United Nations, American and Israeli intelligence agencies have consistently disproven these accusations [2]. The western media hardly discusses the latter point, and the irresponsible hype around the former creates the impression of constant imminent danger that needs to be addressed by force [3].

The propaganda campaign against Iran has not been without purpose. The long-standing policy has been to engineer “regime change” [4], the same goal that the Bush Administration articulated with respect to Iraq. Just like Iraq, the Iranian nuclear issue was simply identified as potent rally point to “sell” future hostilities to the public [2]. Just like Iraq, unsubstantiated allegations from self-serving sources were used to convict Iran rhetorically. For example, the terror group MEK claimed [5] to have “exposed” two “secret” Iranian nuclear sites under construction in 2002, which was immediately seized upon by Western governments and media as positive proof that Iran was developing nuclear weapons in violation of the NPT. Left unsaid in the propaganda blitz were the inconvenient facts that the facilities were for production of energy and that Iran had no legal obligation to declare them until shortly before nuclear material is transported to them (i.e. several years later) [6].

In response to the accusations, the Khatami administration voluntarily suspended Iran’s nuclear energy program, but regime change proponents saw this only as a sign of weakness, and refused to negotiate with Iran. Still in the following years, other chances for peace were created with the help of intermediaries such as the EU [7], Brazil and Turkey, but again the American side was not interested in a successful deal [8].

The Bush administration used strong-arm and fear tactics as leverage to push through UN sanctions against Iran [9], fully exploiting the fears of the international community – not so much the fear of a nuclear Iran, but fear of US starting another war. This is the basic origin of the UN sanctions in force against Iran today. The present nuclear deal’s proposal to lift these sanctions is certainly a welcome path toward peace, but it does not address the inherent injustice toward Iran.

Why Nuclear Energy is Important to Iranians

Some commentators have asked why Iran cares about nuclear energy if it has substantial oil reserves? [10] The premise of the question, which is never challenged in the western media, represents a view that openly considers Iranians as lazy simpletons without ambition or capacity for complex economic planning in their own country. For historic reasons dating back to British and Russian colonial strategies in Iran, the independent development and mastery of native industries in Iran is of tremendous importance to Iranians across the political spectrum. The sanctions against Iran and its oil industry have done nothing but to reaffirm and reemphasize this important phenomenon in the Iranian psyche. Iran is a country rich with significant deposits of Uranium and one of the few in the world that has the potential to build the entire nuclear ecosystem entirely inside the country. As such nuclear energy represents not only national pride, but also a strategy to diversify energy resources and be better prepared for exactly the kind of economic warfare waged upon it for decades.

Legal Basis for the Iranian Nuclear Program

One often repeated canard heard from British and American pundits is that “we are giving Iran” a large sum of money in “exchange” for not developing nuclear weapons. The statement is beyond absurd [11]. The only funds under discussions are the ones legitimately belonging to Iranians themselves that have, for example, been withheld by Iran’s trading partners due to American threats of economic retaliation. The withholdings have always been on shaky legal grounds and some of them have been successfully challenged in courts. The other side of the equation is also not true. Iran is already obligated under the Treaty on Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) not to develop any nuclear weapons. This was Iran’s legal obligation before the deal and it will remain so after the deal.

What Western media fail to mention is that the same NPT signed both by Iran and the United States, entitles Iran to “have the right to participate in, to the fullest possible exchange of equipment, materials and scientific and technological information for the peaceful uses of nuclear energy”. The NPT further explicitly obliges nuclear weapons states like the U.S. to “facilitate” such transactions [12]. The United States has never taken this obligation seriously and has worked to block Iran’s access to civilian nuclear technologies. It was the lack of such “facilitation” from the West that partially convinced Iranians to develop their own native nuclear power infrastructure, to which they also have what the NPT explicitly calls “the inalienable right of all the Parties to the Treaty to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination” [13].

Failure of Sanctions and Regime Change Policies

Contrary to the claims of the Obama administration, the failure of sanctions policies – and not their success – brought about this agreement [14]. The toughest sanctions in modern history were placed on Iran with the urging of US and Israel. American officials and hawkish pressure groups have been boasting since 2006 that “crippling” and “strangling” sanctions would force Iran to dismantle its nuclear program. There was widespread belief that Iranian people would blame the government for the economic turmoil, then rise up and topple the government with the help of friendly outside forces. It was supposed to be the freezing of assets, then financial sanctions, then an oil embargo, then preventing Iran from buying processed petroleum products, then punishing of third party suppliers to Iran, etc. that were each supposed to push Iran over the edge and bring regime change or at least force Iran to halt its nuclear activity [15]. None of these achieved the desired effect. Of course plenty of ordinary Iranians suffered and continue to suffer under the sanctions, be it due to increased inflation, air transport accidents or lack of proper medicine, all brought about by the sanctions. But ultimately neither capitulation, nor revolution came to pass. In reality, as bad as their situation became during the “crippling” sanctions era, it was nothing compared to what the Iranians had experienced in the 1980’s when Saddam Hussein imposed a real war on them. Saddam was militarily and financially supported by almost the same cast of countries now negotiating with Iran and Iranians do not forget this.

The sanctions regime, enacted with enormous cooperation and economic sacrifice from America’s allies around the world began to unravel. By 2015, analysts were nearly unanimous in predicting the complete collapse of the sanctions regime. Even the Obama administration, the architect of many crippling sanctions against Iran acknowledges this failure when the President claims the only real alternative to the deal is eventual war with Iran.

Prospects for Peace and Cooperation

The Vienna nuclear discussions were concluded in agreement without even a mention to the many acts of sabotage conducted against Iran which were with full knowledge and in some cases, full participation of the United States. The most well known of these acts are the cyber attacks against the Iranian nuclear infrastructure, and the assassination campaign against Iranian civilian nuclear scientists. While both of these extra-legal acts of aggression have been attributed to Israel, it is widely believed the US was fully complicit in their execution.

The present nuclear agreement also doesn’t acknowledge Iran’s continued non-deviation of nuclear materials as confirmed by many international experts including US and Israeli spy agencies. In spite of this point, Iran agrees to substantial reduction of its nuclear centrifuges and fissile material, and further, it agrees to voluntarily adopt the additional protocols even though many NPT signatories have not adopted them.

In contrasts to the claims of Obama critics that Iran somehow “duped” the P5+1 with a favorable deal for itself, the nuclear deal is under attack by many Iranians for being unfair to Iran. In this context the signing of the deal by the Iranian executive and the official backing of it from the Supreme Leader’s office represent an enormous olive branch to the West, particularly the United States.

American administrations have failed to reciprocate important Iranian peace overtures in the past and the resulting diplomatic disgrace within Iran’s political order has consistently given rise to more confrontational politics. A rejection of this deal by the American Congress would signal an unmistakable failure of Iranian pragmatists and substantially increase the chances of continued hostilities in the future.

We call on all responsible, non-violent groups to recognize this historic opportunity for peace and to support the present nonproliferation agreement. A coalition of powerful forces with deep pockets has enormous investments in hostile policies between Iran and US. Already millions of dollars are being poured into misinformation and propaganda campaigns to kill this agreement. Only by forcefully, publicly and proactively confronting the lies, can we defeat the coalition and preserve this historic chance for peace.

Notes

[1]       In 1992 Benjamin Netanyahu went on the record claiming Iran could be as little as three years away from a nuclear weapon. Future Iraq-war architect Donald Rumsfeld said in 1998 that Iranian ICBMS will reach the United States by 2003. For a short summary of claims throughout the decades see Scott Peterson’s “Imminent Iran Nuclear Threat? A Timeline of Warnings Since 1979”, http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Middle-East/2011/1108/Imminent-Iran-nuclear-threat-A-timeline-of-warnings-since-1979/Israel-paints-Iran-as-Enemy-No.-1-1992

[2]       The 2004 US DNI estimate to congress did not cite any evidence toward weaponization. It detailed Iran’s nuclear energy progress and expressed concern that “same technologies” could be used for military applications. The 2007 estimate reported that Iran has capabilities but has not decided to pursue nuclear weapons. The estimate was much maligned in the media and many voices within the Bush administration were calling for its revision, but Intelligence community  refused to budge. Ronald Burgess, Jr., Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, said in early 2010 that: "The bottom line assessments of the NIE still hold true. We have not seen indication that the (Iranian) government has made the decision to move ahead with the program.” Subsequent estimates have confirmed the same basic facts, but remain susceptible to opportunistic politicization. For more information see Joshua Rovner’s 2015 Washington Post article “Why U.S. intelligence is right about Iran.” Similarly Israeli intelligence estimates indicate that Iran has not taken steps toward a weapons program. Even before Prime Minister Netanyahu was waving a cartoonish bomb graphic at the United Nations, the Mossad had told him Iran was “not performing the activity necessary to produce weapons.” See the Guardian’s 2015 article “Leaked cables show Netanyahu’s Iran bomb claim contradicted by Mossad.”

[3]       See Gareth Porter’s Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of Iran Nuclear Scare (2014, Just World Books). A short review is available at FPIF.

[4]       In his 2007 Telegraph Article titled “Bush sanctions ‘black ops’ against Iran”, Tim Shipman reports “President George W Bush has given the CIA approval to launch covert ‘black’ operations to achieve regime change in Iran, intelligence sources have revealed.” The article details funding of dissident groups, supplying violent extremist groups with money and weapons as well as currency/economic manipulation as some of the methods employed to achieve regime change.

[5]       National Council of Resistance, “People’s Mujahedeen”, or “Mujahedeen Khalgh” (MEK) has a long and illustrious history of violent attacks against civilians starting with American citizens in the years before the Iranian revolution. See the Guardian’s 2012 article “what is the MEK and why did the US call it a terrorist organisation?” An excerpt appears below:

The MEK ran a bombing campaign inside Iran against the Shah’s regime the 1970s. The targets were sometimes American, including the US information office, Pepsi Cola, PanAm and General Motors. The group routinely denounced Zionism and "racist Israel", and called for "death to America".

A state department report in 1992 identified the MEK as responsible for the killing of six Americans in Iran during the 1970s. They included three military officers and three men working for Rockwell International, a conglomerate specialising in aerospace including weapons, who were murdered in retaliation for the arrest of MEK members over the killings of the US military officers.

MEK has been enlisted by Israel (believed to be the real source of 2002 revelations), to conduct a campaign of assassinations against Iranian scientists. More recently, the group has been working hard to sabotage the nuclear negotiations between Iran and the P5+1. In a moved timed shortly before Benjamin Netanyahu’s controversial address to the US Congress, the MEK claimed to possess new evidence showing a secret nuclear facility called “Lavizan-3”. The evidence was disproven almost immediately by multiple sources.

[6]       “Under its safeguards agreement, Iran is not required to allow IAEA inspections of a new nuclear facility until six months before nuclear material is introduced into it.”, Albright and Hinderstein, 2002. http://www.isis-online.org/publications/iran/iranimages.html

[7]       From “To Stop Iran Nukes, Give it a Stake,” 2012, by David Patrikarakos:

Almost ten years ago, in May 2003, shortly after the United States had obliterated the Iraqi Army, Iran offered the U.S. a historic deal via the Swiss ambassador under which it would compromise on its program and normalize relations between the two countries. The deal was reportedly rejected out of hand by then vice-President Dick Cheney (we don’t negotiate with evil was his terse and short-sighted response). Nonetheless, European diplomats at the International Atomic Energy Agency sensed palpable fear in their Iranian counterparts during those early months of 2003; a few months later, in the October 2003 Tehran agreement, Iran agreed to suspend uranium enrichment while talks to resolve the overall crisis continued. Iran subsequently suspended enrichment for two years while vague European promises of more discussions never materialized – largely because without U.S. involvement in negotiations, there was simply nothing of substance they could offer Iran.

[8]       From “The Turkey-Brazil-Iran Agreement: Thanks, but No Thanks?” by Patrick Seale, 2010:

Washington has interpreted the Tehran agreement as an act of defiance of its global authority, an argument which carries weight with other permanent members of the Security Council. Reluctant to see the initiative in important matters of international security slipping from its hands, the Obama administration has persuaded the permanent members of the Council to circulate a tough draft resolution demanding that Iran suspend uranium enrichment, and adding a long list of restrictions on Iranian military, commercial and financial activities.

[9]       See “US Coercion of India against Iran at IAEA”, CASMII, March 2007.

[10]     In fact the case for Iran’s nuclear energy needs was made by the USA itself in 1960’s. America supplied Iran with its first atomic reactor as well as set up education and training programs. (See “Sixty Years of ‘Atoms for Peace’ and Iran’s Nuclear Program”), 2013.

[11]     See “Treasury: No, Iran Is Not Getting $150 Billion From The Nuclear Deal,” Huffington Post, 2015.

[12]     NPT Article IV.

[13]     At various times in the past two decades, the US administration has claimed that the NPT article IV does not give Iran the right to enrich Uranium on its own soil because there’s no explicit mention of enrichment in the text of the article. For example in a 2013 debriefing to congress, Wendy Sherman—Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs and the senior U.S. representative in the P5+1 nuclear talks with Iran said this:

It has always been the U.S. position that Article IV of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty does not speak about the right of enrichment at all [and] doesn’t speak to enrichment, period.  It simply says that you have the right to research and development.

While she acknowledged that close US allies such as Germany and Japan do not hold this view, she nevertheless reiterated that it is the US position with respect to Iran.

International experts have debunked this position on multiple grounds. For a good summary see “America’s Lead Iran Negotiator Misrepresents U.S. Policy (and International Law) to Congress” (2013) by Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett. The authors point out that not only Germany and Japan, but an overwhelming majority of countries in the world read the NPT’s phrase “inalienable right” to include nuclear enrichment.

From any objectively informed legal perspective, denying non-weapons states’ right of safeguarded enrichment amounts to nothing more than a shameless effort to rewrite the NPT unilaterally.

Furthermore, the Leveretts cite evidence that enrichment is wholly consistent with the NPT, including articles II and III.

In 1968, as America and the Soviet Union, the NPT’s sponsors, prepared to open it for signature, the founding Director of the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, William Foster, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee—the same committee to which Sherman untruthfully testified last month—that the Treaty permitted non-weapons states to pursue the fuel cycle.  We quote Foster on this point:   “Neither uranium enrichment nor the stockpiling of fissionable material in connection with a peaceful program would violate Article II so long as these activities were safeguarded under Article III.”

Furthermore, even specifically with respect to Iran, the US stated position was that enrichment was a legal right. As Dr. Mohammad Sahimi points out in 2013 “Iran Has a Right to Enrich—And America Already Recognized It.”

[14]     See “No, Sanctions Didn’t Force Iran to Make a Deal” (2014) and “The US Was Forced to Negotiate with Iran Because of Changing Global Circumstances” (2015).

[15]     Timeline: Sanctions on Iran, 2012.

CASMII, campaigniran.org

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