Thursday, April 16, 2015

A plus point for non-proliferation by Shad Saleem Faruqi - The STAR

Despite many gaping holes, the framework agreement on Iran’s nuclear programme is a notable achievement
THE framework agreement between six world powers and Iran in Lausanne, Switzerland, on Teheran’s nuclear programme is a huge diplomatic victory for United States President Barack Obama. He showed firm leadership in staying the course despite massive criticism from Israel and its sycophants in the US Congress. Likewise, President Hassan Rouhani of Iran stood up to the rightist ideologues in his country.
Despite many flaws, the blueprint may facilitate a breakthrough in ongoing but difficult nuclear negotiations. Prof Matthew Bunn of Harvard’s Belfer Centre says that the agreement is a positive step for non-proliferation. The deal contains stringent technical conditions that will make any “breakout attempt” (attempt to produce a nuclear weapon) easily detectable.
Iran will be required to decommission some of its enrichment facilities. Fordo, an underground site, will be converted to a research centre where fissile material is banned. Another heavy-water reactor will be redesigned to disable it from making bomb-grade plutonium.
These measures will prevent the development of a nuclear bomb during the 15-year period of the deal. Supporters of Israel must note that during this period Israel will retain its nuclear monopoly of the region.
If Iran secretly takes the tragic course of developing nuclear weaponry, the monitoring will lengthen the breakout time from a few weeks to one year, thus giving the West opportunity to explore all options.
For Teheran, the lifting of sanctions (valued at US$110bil a year) will create economic disincentives to experiment with nuclear arms.
Iran will return to the global economy in exchange for curbs on its nuclear programme. The huge Iranian hinterland will be opened up to entrepreneurial Western corporations.
Further, the framework agreement may open the door to a new era in the US-Iran relationship and end the 35-year standoff.
Sceptics are however pointing out that the absence of key details on contentious issues makes the pact extremely fragile. The “fact sheets” publicised by both sides are already indicating clashing interpretations of key clauses.
For example, will sanctions be lifted immediately or in phases, on the day of the agreement or when the deal is put in place? Will inspections and verifications extend to “any place, any time” or will military sites be excluded?
To the critics, rapprochement with Iran is neither possible nor desirable because Iranian and US interests do not coincide on crucial policies. In the conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Yemen, the fight is between Iranian and Western proxies.
While there is place for such scepticism, one must remember that there are no problems that cannot be resolved. Nothing is insurmountable. The journey of a thousand miles must begin with one small step.
The technical details to be hammered out by June 30 pose immense challenges. Yet, it can be hoped that US and Iranian leadership will give peace a chance and accept the daunting task. The US President is a Nobel Peace laureate, and this may be his defining legacy.
In a spirit of reconciliation, both parties should stop regarding themselves as virtuous and the other as evil. Iran must end its silly rhetoric of calling the US a Satan.
It needs to make amends for the flagrant violation of international law by its illegal occupation of the American embassy and hostage taking of 52 American personnel for 444 days, beginning Nov 4, 1979.
The US, in turn, must expiate for the horrendous crime of shooting down an Iranian Airbus in the Persian Gulf on July 3, 1988, killing all 290 on board. Besides a 35-year-old economic siege, the US has tried repeatedly to overthrow the government of Iran. There are claims that in cohorts with Israel it has murdered Iranian officials and scientists.
Western lies and hypocrisy about a nuclear-armed Iran must be ended. The truth is that Iran does not possess any nuclear bomb.
Israel does, and is secretive about it. Iran is a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Israel is not.
Iran has openly stated that it seeks to enrich uranium for nuclear medicine and electrical power. Under the Non-Proliferation Treaty it has an “inalienable right” to do so. Its conduct is no different from what Brazil, Argentina, Japan and other countries do under IAEA supervision.
Iran’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei issued a fatwa (religious edict) in 2005 that the production, stockpiling or use of nuclear weapons is un-Islamic. Sometime ago Iran proposed a nuclear free zone in the Middle East. There was thunderous silence from Israel and the West.
As early as 2003-2005, Iran had sought accommodation with the West by limiting its number of centrifuges to 3,000. Had the West then responded, the recent agreement would have been reached in 2005!
Iran supports the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative endorsed by the Arab League that supports a two-state solution and recognition of Israel.
In violation of international law, the US and Israel have repeatedly threatened Iran with missile strikes if Iran continues to enrich uranium, even for peaceful purposes.
It is grossly dishonest of them to be armed to the teeth with nuclear weapons but threaten Iran for wanting to have nuclear energy.
A nuclear deal with Iran will do the USA, Iran and the rest of the world much good. Those who oppose war and regard nuclear weapons as a despicable abuse of science should welcome diplomacy between Iran and the major powers and condemn Israel and its congressional allies for their lies, hysteria and fear-mongering.
As with his initiative on Cuba, President Obama must embark on the path of reconciliation with Iran. He should put the interest of America first and not allow Israel to push his country into war with Iran. Like Abraham Lincoln on the abolition of slavery and Richard Nixon on bridges to China, Obama should provide leadership.
I think it was Jesse Jackson who said of situations like this: “Leaders of substance do not follow opinion polls. They mould opinion, not with guns or dollars or position but with the power of their souls.”

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