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Nipping Nuclear Buds: The Iran Deal

Nipping Nuclear Buds: The Iran Deal

by Dr. Binoy Kampmark
November 27, 2013

This was the limited deal, one designed to halt Iran’s quest for a nuclear weapons option and stave off the proliferating actions of other states. It is a deal replete with unresolved issues – but then again, it was not expected to. For one thing, what is on the table contains the classic contradiction of sovereignty – that other states may acquire nuclear options or have them, but not Iran.

So far, the details of the deal, brokered between Iran, and the Permanent five plus one (US, Great Britain, France, China, Russia and Germany) involve a six month corridor of taking various measures. The entire stockpile of 20 percent of enriched material to be diluted, or at the very least rendered unsuited for further enrichment. The stockpile of 3.5 percent enriched uranium is not to alter between now and six months. Excess material will have to be converted to oxide. There will be no more centrifuges to be installed. Numbers of current centrifuges are not to be operated.

Of vital importance is the emphasis placed on preventing Iran was undertaking the second option of creating a bomb, namely via the plutonium route. For that reason, the parties were in general agreement that the Arak reactor will not be further pursued along those lines. Construction will be halted.

Now what of the Iranians? They will have to, or at least have promised that they will, allow for some regime of inspection. Teheran has been promised that they will not receive any further sanctions in the next six months. Some will even be suspended, notably on various precious metals and gold. Money will be released for Iranians studying overseas. A certain portion of oil-revenue, some $4.2 billion, will be transferred. What is astonishing about these concessions is the extent of how belligerent the sanctions regime has been against the Iranian regime.

The observation being made here is that, while Iran is not gaining much, it is not giving much either. Iran will be allowed to continue some elementary form of uranium enrichment, though Washington has never taken a direct stance approving it. Israel, seeing demons everywhere, has asserted, at least rhetorically, that Iran has no such right to any form of enrichment.

The hawks aren’t happy by this latest development because their beaks have been blunted and their wings clipped – for now. Iran is a mortal enemy, to be shunned, to be boxed in the category of international untouchables. For the conservatives and hawks in the U.S. and Israel, all forms of discussion short of the gun and imposition is impossible. Former US Senator Joe Lieberman stated it in the most simple terms: there was “American blood on Iranian hands” going back to the bombing of the Beirut embassy by Hezbollah in 1983.

Lieberman shows again how he refuses to be blessed among the peace makers. Like a child retreating from the playground with wounded pride, he finds the Iranians incapable of being trusted. They had “a terrible record of not keeping agreements and frankly of lying.” Naturally, Washington’s assertions that it doesn’t spy on its friends and leaders of the misnamed free world shows purity of thought and action.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of North Carolina, showing the sophistication of an intoxicated pugilist, lamented the miniscule adjustments to the sanctions regime against Iran, claiming that “we had the chance to deliver a body blow.”

Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu has proclaimed this negotiated pathway a “historic mistake”, one which “reduces the pressure on Iran without receiving anything tangible in return, and the Iranians who laughed all the way to the bank are themselves saying that this deal has saved them.” The Gulf states are distinctly underwhelmed, fearing that this will hardly be enough.

None want to see Iran’s power in the region legitimised, even if the power is highly circumscribed. But what such states fail to realise is that they, themselves, can be triggers for the very non-proliferation they want to avert. Attempts to disable and cripple all forms of nuclear pursuit will simply be a recipe for that pursuit to become more aggressive.

The doves can hardly be said to be cooing either. This may turn out to be historic, but the true history of this occasion lies at one apex: the fact that diplomatic conversation has long last taken place. What we got, at least, was conversation, and a concession that such conversation is vital. Jaw-jaw, as mentioned by Winston Churchill, among others, tends to be better than war-war, as fascinatingly irresistible as the latter option may be.


Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne.

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