By Chandra Muzaffar
The dominant Western media have been telling the world that it is because of the sanctions imposed upon Iran that it has agreed to curb its nuclear activities for six months in exchange for partial sanctions relief. It is true that inhuman, unjust sanctions especially on Iran’s oil trade and its banking arrangements have hurt its people which is why they had pinned so much hope on the newly elected President, Hassan Rouhani, to bring about changes that would ameliorate their situation. But that is not the only reason for the willingness of the present leadership to limit its uranium enrichment to a maximum of 5% or dilute its stock of 20% enriched uranium or cease the construction of the Arak reactor.
In 2003, Iran, under President Muhammad Khatami, with Rouhani as his chief nuclear negotiator, had voluntarily suspended its enrichment programme for two years and allowed intrusive inspections by the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in order to allay US and European fears about its nuclear programme. The then US President, George W. Bush, ignored this gesture and ratcheted up sanctions. He was acting in accordance with the diabolical agenda of the neo-conservatives (neo-cons) who in turn were in collusion with Zionist lobbies in the US and the Israeli elite in Tel Aviv.
In defiance of the US, Khatami’s successor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, escalated uranium enrichment and increased the installation of centrifuges from 164 in 2003 to 19,000 in 2013. His defiance, compounded by his belligerence, lent credence in Western circles to the erroneous view that Iran was on the verge of acquiring a bomb.
The Khatami-Rouhani approach towards the nuclear question, in contrast to Ahmadinejad’s, helps to explain why there was a breakthrough in the negotiations that culminated in an interim nuclear agreement between Iran, on the one hand, and the five UN Security Council members (Britain, China, France, Russia and the US) and Germany,( 5 plus 1), on the other, in Geneva on the 24th of November 2013. Rational, realistic and reform-oriented and yet conscious of the importance of adhering to ethical principles, Iranian leaders of this ilk reflect the sentiments of their people. After a hiatus of eight years, this type of leadership has re-emerged in Iran and is determined to prove to its most sceptical critics that its nuclear programme is truly peaceful and transparent.
Given this commitment, the Rouhani government should now embark upon a massive campaign to eliminate the whole of West Asia and North Africa (WANA) of nuclear weapons and all other weapons of mass destruction (WMD). The people of WANA will give enthusiastic support to such a cause. It should be the first phase of a worldwide campaign to get rid of WMD everywhere.
In mobilising the people of WANA, Iran as an Islamic Republic has an advantage. As its leaders have repeatedly reminded their people, nuclear weapons are haram (prohibited) in Islam. They are haram because they invariably kill the innocent, bring death to unborn generations, and devastate the natural environment.
The one state in WANA that possesses a nuclear arsenal with perhaps 400 nuclear warheads can be expected to oppose this noble struggle to ban nuclear and other WMD. Its opposition will reveal what Israel really means by its concern for its “security.” Israel has always equated security with hegemony. It is because of this equation that Israel is obsessed with the perpetuation of a WANA where no other state or movement has even an ounce of strength to mount the tiniest challenge to its military and technological supremacy. Hence its preoccupation with ensuring that it remainsthe sole nuclear weapons state in WANA ad infinitum. This is why it wants to destroy Iran’s entire nuclear programme, however peaceful it maybe.
For Israel, the targeting of Iran goes beyond its nuclear programme. In the last five years or so, Israeli elites have often exploited the Shia-Sunni divide as a way of creating hatred and animosity between Shia Iran and its Sunni neighbours. Of course, there are other states in WANA that are also actively involved in fuelling this sectarian antagonism which often leads to violence and massacres.
But it is not Israel’s indirect involvement in the Sunni-Shia conflict or its venom towards Iran which has had a negative impact on the State, especially in Europe, and to a much lesser extent, in the US. It is Israel’s cruel and often oppressive treatment of the Palestinians which has eroded its standing in countries such as Italy, France, Germany and Britain. The extreme, aggressive positions adopted by leaders like Ariel Sharon and Benjamin Netanyahu over the last fifteen years have revealed to many in the West the ugly side of Israel. The new media in particular have played an important role in exposing Israel’s stark injustices against the Palestinian people. Pro- Palestinian movements in different parts of the world — the Boycott, Divest and Sanctions (BDS) network is a good example — have also become more organised and focussed in raising awareness about the plight of the Palestinians.
These are some of the reasons why the Israeli elite or pro- Israel Zionist lobbies in countries such as Britain and France no longer command as much influence as they once did. In fact, in the US itself — still the bastion of Israeli and Zionist power — the Zionist lobbies appear to be less united and more divided in exercising their influence over the political process. They were split for instance on the question of Barack Obama’s re-election in 2012 and, indeed, the segment opposed to his return to the White House lost the battle.
The decline of Israeli and Zionist influence in Europe and, to a limited degree, the US is also linked to the growing disenchantment in the West with war and violence associated with war. Israel is seen especially among anti-war activists in Europe as a state that is constantly pushing for war. This was obvious in the case of Iraq in 2003. It has become even more obvious in the case of Iran. More and more people now know that it is Israel — more than any other state — that wants the US to take military action against Iran. But people in most places today have no appetite for war. What this means is that they have very little sympathy for Israel’s posturing.
Because their citizens have turned against war, leaders in the democratic West have no choice but to follow suit. This is true of Britain as it is of France and Germany. In the US, it was partly because of the popular mood that Obama pulled back from a military strike against Syria. And in Iran, Obama is fully aware that the alternative to a negotiated settlement of the nuclear crisis is war — a war which the American people will not support.
Besides, Obama himself — it is becoming more apparent in his second term — does not want to be remembered as the President who got his people embroiled in wars. He would rather be honoured in history as the leader who extricated his nation from wars or desisted from going to war.
This may well be the real significance of the interim agreement between Iran and the 5 plus 1. It may have averted yet another war, another unimaginable catastrophe.
Dr. Chandra Muzaffar is the President of the International Movement for a Just World (JUST).
27 November 2013.