Why anyone would oppose the Iran deal bewilders the imagination. Short of this deal lies a war with Iran. If the West wants a war with Iran, then the deal is a terrible idea. If the West does not wish a war against Iran, the deal is necessary.
Iran’s nuclear programme was built on the U.S. government’s Atoms for Peace project of the 1950s. A member of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Iran has followed most of the protocols for the creation of a nuclear energy sector.
Unlike Iran, India and Israel — both seen by the U.S. as allies — are not members of the NPT or the IAEA, have nuclear weapons not merely nuclear energy and are therefore international scofflaws.
Yet, it is Iran that faced a sanctions regime and threats from the West and Israel.
Why was Iran treated differently than India and Israel?
Why was Iran treated differently than India and Israel? The only possible answer is Iran’s position in the map of Western interests. The Iranian Revolution of 1979 seriously threatened the Gulf Arab monarchies because it provided a non-monarchical Islamic form of government.
In 1980, the West and the Gulf Arabs egged on Iraq into its fratricidal war against Iran, pushing Iran into regional isolation. President Jimmy Carter’s doctrine suggested that the defence of the Gulf Arab monarchies is tantamount to the defence of the United States itself. The axis of Gulf Arabs and the West against Iran had been set before any Israeli intervention.
George W. Bush’s War on Terror unwittingly knocked out Iran’s two historic adversaries — Afghanistan’s Taliban (2001) and Iraq’s Ba’ath Party (2003). This enabled Iran to stretch its wings outward and seek regional influence. Several regional wars, including Israel’s attack on Lebanon in 2006, attempted to put the Iranians back into their straitjacket. None succeeded.
Iran’s legal nuclear programme
It was the bogey of the sanctions regime (2006 onwards) that was crafted to bring Iran to its knees. This was not about any nuclear threat. IAEA reports from the mid-2000s provided no evidence of any illegal Iranian nuclear programme, as shown by journalist Gareth Porter in his Manufactured Crisis (Just World Books, 2014). The U.S. State Department nonetheless wanted to pressure IAEA head Mohammed ElBaradei to remain silent about discrepancies between IAEA findings and those of the Central Intelligence Agency (tainted as it in the lead-up to the Iraq war).
The sanctions regime, the Stuxnet attack on Iran’s computer network and the killing of Iranian scientists provoked Tehran into non-negotiation with the IAEA. The standoff, which the neoconservatives wanted, emerged.
Imam Khomeini’s 1987 fatwa against nuke
Was Iran ever on the road towards a nuclear weapon? In 2005, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei delivered a decree against nuclear weapons. This fatwa followed an important one from Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in December 1987 against chemical weapons. This is a significant ruling, because it came after Iraq used chemical weapons (components of which were supplied by the West) against Iranian troops on several occasions.
Joost Hiltermann’s A Poisonous Affair: America, Iraq and the Gassing of Halabja (Cambridge, 2007) provides the riposte to those who suggest that it was Iran that used chemical weapons in that terrible war.
It is certainly true that Iran hid parts of its programme in the late 2000s from the IAEA, but this is not unusual. Old ideas of Westphalian sovereignty drive modern states to be jealous of their territorial control (it is likely this that provoked Saddam Hussein to play cat and mouse with the UN inspectors, not the presence of any dangerous weapons — since there were none in 2002-03).
When the US first attacked the Taliban in 2001, Iran provided crucial support in western Afghanistan. That collusion was valuable for the troops, but it stopped when George W. Bush — surprisingly — put Iran on his “Axis of Evil” list.
Trade interests of China, Russia and Asian states in Iran
Iran is the most important ally for Iraq and has substantial influence in Kabul. It has close links to the Syrian government. Pipelines and train lines run through Iran toward China, financed by India, China and Turkey. China, Russia and other Asian states have substantial commercial interests in Iran, as do the Europeans.
Iran is a major player in the anti-ISIS war. In Iraq and parts of Syria, it provides the logistical and strategic support for the war-weary Iraqi and Syrian troops. To lead, as the US believes, a war against ISIS without Iran on board is farcical.
Iran’s isolation as a result of the Western and UN sanctions is fated to end whether the US ratifies the deal or not.
Neither Sens. Charles Charles Schumer nor Bob Menendez have provided a credible answer to the question — if the deal does not go through, is the United States willing to go to war against a country of 80 million people?
If you think West Asia is in the midst of dangerous chaos now, a Western and Israeli attack on Iran would let fly from Pandora’s box what evils remain yet in slumber.
Vijay Prashad, director of International Studies at Trinity College, is the editor of Letters to Palestine. He lives in Northampton.
Jehan Perera in Colombo
Within a week of former government’s second electoral defeat, this time at the general election, two senior representatives of the United States paid a rare joint visit to Sri Lanka. They were the first representatives of foreign powers to visit the country after the elections. They came even before parliament has met and the new government has been formed. Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera was one of only three ministers to be appointed at the time of their visit. The speed of his appointment may have been due to the rapport he has demonstrated with the hitherto alienated sections of the international community. US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Sri Lanka after the presidential election and referred to him publicly as a friend. It can only help that Sri Lanka is viewed by the US positively at this time and not negatively.
The visit of US Assistant Secretaries Nisha Biswal and Tom Malinowski was a reconfirmation of the importance that the world’s dominant power places in Sri Lanka. At the height of the Rajapaksa presidency in 2009 when the confrontation between the former government and the US-led international community was building up, a visiting US Senate delegation recommended that Sri Lanka was too important a country for the US to lose. This was when the United States was leading the campaign to compel the Sri Lankan government to accept an international investigation into human rights violations in the last phase of the country’s internal war. The Rajapaksa government responded by mobilising anti-West sentiment both within the country and internationally to protect the Sri Lanka’s sovereign right to conduct investigations into itself.
The basic problem for Sri Lanka during the Rajapaksa government was that it did not wish to deal with the past. This proved to be a fatal mistake and led that government on a course of confrontation not only with the international community but also with the Tamil and Muslim ethnic minorities that ultimately led to its political downfall. The last phase of the war was brutal, and it was not only the government that was to blame but also the LTTE and all who supported it. The gross human rights and terrorist record of the LTTE meant that most governments worldwide were willing to be understanding of the Sri Lankan government’s predicament in waging war against the LTTE. But instead of accepting that human rights violations had occurred during the war and that it would do its utmost to repair the damage, the government denied it all and behaved as if there was no problematic past to be dealt with or for which it bore responsibility.
During their brief visit to Sri Lanka the visiting US officials met with a range of parties in the country. Prior to their departure they announced that the United States would be advocating for a domestic investigation into the past as against the international one they had been pressing for with the Rajapaksa government. This provides a second chance to the Sri Lankan government. The first chance that Sri Lanka had was in 2009 shortly after the war ended. In that year the UN Human Rights Council discussed the end of the war in Sri Lanka and after a debate and vote, it agreed that Sri Lanka should investigate the past through its national processes. But apart from setting up the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission, the Rajapaksa government did not meet the concerns of the international community.
Instead of establishing a domestic inquiry into human rights violations that occurred during the war, and also instituting political reforms that would address the roots of the conflict, the Rajapaksa government adopted a belligerent posture towards the Western countries and human rights organisations. It pointed out the double standards that were being employed by them and accused them of hypocrisy. It also took a decision to engage with other sections of the international community and looked towards Asia and Africa for new friends to support it in the diplomatic contest with the West. It found a champion in China with Russia playing a supportive role.
If the new government can obtain economic support from the international community to correct the mistakes of the past it will be a great boon. The willingness of the United States to revise its previous insistence on an international mechanism to investigate the past, and to express its willingness for a national mechanism, is a sign of trust in the new government. It is not only the United States that is placing its trust in the new government, but also the majority of voters, which includes a high proportion of the Tamil and Muslim minorities in the country. At the presidential elections President Maithripala Sirisena obtained an overwhelming majority of votes of the Tamils and Muslims. This is a trust that he and the new government will need to nurture by actions that are fair by the ethnic minorities who have placed their trust in him. At the general elections Tamil parties that contested on hard line nationalist sentiment were badly defeated.
It was reported in the media that the government has shared its draft of the mechanism that would deal with the past with the visiting US officials. It is also important that the government should open the discussion on its draft proposals with the Tamil parties and civil society and obtain their feedback. Sri Lanka is at a fortuitous place where the international community stands ready to assist the positive initiatives of its government and the government is willing to accept such assistance. However, the purpose of the national mechanism must be to ensure healing and reconciliation within the country and this will not come from only satisfying the international community, but also must satisfy the people of all ethnicities and all communities that justice is being done, and in particular to those who require their lives to be rebuilt.
The decision of the US to support a domestic mechanism rather than an international one will be disappointing to those sections of the Tamil polity and civil society who are acutely conscious of the repeated failures of Sri Lankan commissions of inquiry and committees to deliver justice to them. They have witnessed these efforts come to naught so that their feeling of being let down is understandable. They were expecting an international investigation which they felt would be the best way to compel the Sri Lankan government to implement whatever findings were made or possibly face sanctions imposed by the international community. However, whether this would have been a viable option is open to question. An international investigation would have generated a backlash of Sinhalese nationalism which would have been beneficial to the electorally defeated nationalists who have now been relegated to the opposition and give them the opportunity to stage a political comeback. Even in the case of the domestic mechanism, it is necessary that the agreement of the Sinhalese majority should be obtained for the reforms and reparations that are needed. It needs to have everyone’s buy in, and must be seen benefiting the future generations that will live in the country.
Oxford University Press of Pakistan notice informs us that former Pakistan foreign minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri's book 'Neither a hawk nor a dove', will be launched internationally during the current month.
This book of memoirs, containing 676 pages, has also been published by Penguin, India - a rare work of partnership between publishing houses of two countries that are again at loggerheads in this year's look-back to 50 years of Indo-Pakistan War that lasted for 17 days in 1965, exposing both nations to economic woes.
Mr. Kasuri's book lists a lot of personal accounts in which he speaks of how he initiated peace process with India. And, from him we also come to know why he chose this title for his memoir.He informs us that former President Pervez Musharraf pointedly asked him on the very first day of appointment as foreign minister in Musharraf's cabinet. ''Mr. Kasuri, are you a hawk or dove on India?'' He replied: ''Mr. President you will find out in due time.''
The book is the first comprehensive account by a Pakistani Foreign Minister who directly contributed in moving the peace process with India forward.
Dawn op-ed writer Zahid Hussain says, given the latest debacle [postponement of the scheduled meeting between National Security Advisers of Pakistan and India], it may sound incredible, but "India and Pakistan had come close to an agreement on the most contentious issue of Kashmir a few years ago.Kasuri believes that, whenever two statesmen are at the helm in India and Pakistan, for improvement of relations, they would have to revert to the framework formulated by him during his tenure. In the manner, he puts it, ''the two nuclear weapon powers need to show restraint since both are equally capable of destabilizing the other."
On the issue of unresolved problem of Jammu and Kashmir, Kasuri is of the view that India and Pakistan have no option but to opt for a peaceful solution, on all other issues that plague the two countries. "They have no other recourse but to act responsibly since the fate of around 1.5 billion people from the two nations hangs in the balance."
The book reveals secret negotiations, through back channels. At one time, some years ago, Pakistan and India came close to an understanding on Kashmir. 'The two sides had fundamentally agreed on a four-point formula that envisaged demilitarization and joint control of the disputed territory. While avoiding the redrawing of the border, it suggested making the Line of Control irrelevant allowing Kashmiris on both sides to move freely.'
The author also speaks frankly about his Indian counterparts, Pranab Mukherjee, Natwar Singh, and Yashwant Sinha, and also about Manmohan Singh and Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
On Bangladesh, Mr. Kasuri's comments reflect nostalgia for old connections.
But he is also sympathetic to Indian Muslims and thinks that Muslms in Bangladesh and Pakistan are on the way up but Indian Muslims are on the way down.
In the eye of critics, the book presents the first ever insider's comprehensive dialogue between Pakistan and India since 1947. It also includes a harrowing tale about India's intention to strike Pakistan at Muridke after the attack on Taj Hotel, Mumbai.
However, the Americans got wind of it and tried to avert the murky situation that surely would have followed had India pressed on with this mad plan.