Iran: a thaw

Summary: agreement was reached early on 24 November on an interim deal giving Iran limited sanctions relief in return for restrictions on its nuclear programme.

Agreement was reached early on 24 November on an interim deal giving Iran limited sanctions relief in return for restrictions on its nuclear programme.

Associated Press have published a detailed account of the negotiations between the US and Iran during the last year, kept secret even from America’s closest friends including the rest of the P5 +1 and Israel, which led up to the agreement.

The next phase is likely to see a struggle in the US Congress, where Benjamin Netanyahu will do his best to engineer a block on the relaxation of sanctions on Iran which is a vital part of the deal. The White House has published a “fact sheet”, which has clearly been drafted to be read in Congress rather than in Iran. Mark Mardell of the BBC comments that the gamble that Congress will do as President Obama wishes is “not one I would like to take a bet on.”

As we have repeatedly commented in earlier postings the deal if successful will call for much new thinking in the Middle East. In an op-ed in the New York Times Thomas Friedman writes that “restoring the U.S.-Iran relationship and bringing it in from the cold after 34 years is such a wrenching shock to the Middle East system, it will require daily consultation and hand-holding with all our Arab and Israeli friends.”

According to Al Jazeera hundreds of cheering supporters gathered at Tehran’s airport on Sunday to welcome back Iran’s nuclear negotiators. The crowd, mostly young students, called both Iran’s foreign minister and its top nuclear negotiator “ambassadors of peace”. They carried flowers and Iranian flags and chanted: “No to war, sanctions, surrender and insult.” A report in the Tehran Times is headed “World recognizes Iran’s nuclear rights: Rouhani”.

The deal has been widely welcomed throughout the world, but the two items below, the first from the Saudi Arab news and the second from the Israeli Ynet website, describe reactions there which vary from guarded welcome in the UAE and Bahrain to outright hostility from the Israeli government.

Nuclear deal sparks Iran hegemony fears
JEDDAH: ARAB NEWS, Monday 25 November 2013
Saudi Arabia and other GCC countries fear that the landmark nuclear deal concluded by world powers with Tehran in Geneva on Sunday would boost Tehran’s regional ambitions.
Tehran agreed to curb its nuclear program in the breakthrough interim deal that world powers claimed was the biggest step in decade-long efforts to deny Iran an atomic bomb.
Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi political analyst and general manager of Alarab news channel, said Gulf states fear the agreement would encourage Tehran to act with a free hand in the region.
“The (Geneva) agreement has reduced the Iran problem to the nuclear level only, while its regional interference is of key concern to GCC countries,” he pointed out.
According to Khashoggi, officials in Gulf countries feel the Obama administration “is no longer interested in regional problems” in the Middle East.
UAE analyst Abdulkhaleq Abdullah said: “Countries in the region no longer have any confidence in the US.”
Abdullah Al-Askar, chairman of the foreign affairs committee at the Shoura Council, warned against Tehran’s hidden agenda. “The government of Iran, month after month, has proven that it has an ugly agenda in the region, and in this regard, no one in the region will sleep and assume things are going smoothly.”
Askar said that if the deal did not succeed in preventing Iran from building a bomb it would lead to a nuclear arms race in the region. “I think Saudi Arabia will go ahead if Iran goes ahead (and gets a nuclear weapon). I think Egypt, maybe Turkey, maybe the UAE, would go ahead and acquire the same technology.”
Under the Geneva agreement, Iran will limit its nuclear program in exchange for $7 billion (5.2 billion euros) in sanctions relief. “We are worried,” said Anwar Eshki, head of the Jeddah-based Middle East Center for Strategic and Legal Studies, pointing to the $7 billion.
“We need to know whether these funds will be used by the Iranian regime for its own people, or to further finance crises in the region,” the Saudi official said.
The UAE and Bahrain have welcomed the deal. “The Cabinet hopes this would represent a step toward a permanent agreement that preserves the stability of the region and shield it from tension and the danger of nuclear proliferation,” the UAE said in a statement.
Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa said: “The agreement removes fears from us, whether from Iran or any other state.”
Tehran is a key backer of Syrian President Bashar Assad in his fight against a nearly three-year insurrection. It is also seen as feeding instability in Bahrain and Yemen.
President Barack Obama moved quickly to reassure US allies on Sunday, saying Washington “will remain firm, as will our commitment to our friends and allies — particularly Israel and our Gulf partners, who have good reason to be skeptical about Iran’s intentions.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dismissed the nuclear agreement, calling it “not a historic agreement but rather, a historic mistake.”
He reiterated Israel’s right to defend itself, and his hawkish foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman said “all options are on the table.”

Peres vs. Netanyahu: Results will reveal nuclear deal fallout

After PM Netanyahu warned of ‘historic mistake’, President Peres says ‘deal is temporary, diplomatic solution is preferable.’ Defense Minister Ya’alon slams deal, says West gave in to ‘most active, prosperous terror factory in world’
Noam (Dabul) Dvir, 11.24.13

Following the historic nuclear agreement between Iran and the world powers in Geneva, President Shimon Peres said Sunday morning that “this is an interim deal, and its fallout and continuation can only be discussed according to results and not according to words alone.”

Peres made the remarks following different statements made by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier Sunday, who claimed the deal was “a historic mistake, and the world has become a more dangerous place.”

According to Peres, who addressed foreign media outlets, “we too prefer a diplomatic solution over any other solution. Yet I would like to remind the words of (US) President Obama – a diplomatic solution is preferable, however if it does not succeed, the alternatives will be much more serious and grave.”

The president turned to the Iranian people: “We are not your enemy and you don’t have to be ours. We have never threatened you – why do you threaten us? There is no need for that. You too should choose true peace, turn Iran into a country that does not engage in terror, does not attempt to create a nuclear threat, does not speak foully and threatens other people; you see, no one is threatening you, and you won’t be threatened if you don’t threaten.”

‘West surrendered to charm offensive’

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon continued Netanyahu’s belligerent comments in regards to the new nuclear deal, and during a visit to Canada he said: “The agreement is not an achievement for the West but surrender to the charm offensive and Iranian deceit, aimed at gaining more time.”

“The deal is a historic mistake that allows Iran to join the international family even though it is the most active and prosperous terror factory in the world,” Ya’alon added.

Ya’alon criticized the Western world, lead by the US, and its policy on the subject: “Until only a few hours ago, the Iranian regime was faced with heavy economic pressure that threatened its existence and may have led it to choose its survival over its continued (nuclear) program, but now, due to the West’s short-ranged considerations and lack of determination, the Iranians received legitimacy to continue on with their military nuclear program and worldwide terrorist activities, while removing international isolation and strengthening their economy.”

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