Now is time to press for a nuke-free Middle East
PRESIDENT Obama has urged Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu not to try and wreck the agreement which the United States and other powers have reached with Iran, to ease off on sanctions providing the Iranians limit their nuclear development so it does not approach weapon-making capability.
So far the only governmental opposition to the agreement has come from Netanyahu, who is still threatening war with Iran, claiming the Iranians want to "destroy Israel"; and from the Saudi rulers who are already supporting a proxy war against Iran's sole ally Syria, and who don't want to see Iran's economy recover or restoration of its oil trading position.
The suicide bombs outside the Iranian embassy in Beirut last week, killing 23 people and injuring 167, are assumed to have been the work of a group linked with the Saudis. That the bombs killed passers-by in a mainly Shi'ite neighbourhood (or as BBC calls it "Hizbollah stronghold") is unlikely to have troubled forces that have carried out bombings against the Shi'ite communities in Iraq and Lebanon and murdered numerous civilians in Syria for being non-believers or the wrong sort of Muslim. (Hence the description "Takfiri" for jihadi fanatics who treat other Muslims as "kefir", heathen, and therefore legitimate targets).
Despite the provocations, it was announced at the weekend that peace talks between the Assad regime and its Syrian opponents will begin on January 22 in Geneva. Both the United States and Russia are reportedly backing these talks, aimed at producing an interim government, which could be seen as bad news for the Saudis, and the ally they keep denying, the government of Israel.
Meanwhile in Iran, news of the agreement reached over nuclear development and relaxed sanctions seems to have been greeted with relief by most people.
With fuel and food prices climbing again in the past month, the news is a much needed breath of fresh air for a population stifled with polluted air, medicine shortages, currency devaluation, unemployment, and a host of other sanctions-related realities that have broadly impacted daily life. As it reaps the political benefits of its success in the international negotiations, the administration of President Hassan Rouhani can thus return its attention to the country's immediate economic problems.Some comments by Iranian experts overseas contained a hint of another angle:
In return for significant Iranian concessions on its nuclear enrichment programme, the interim agreement signed in Geneva on 24 November provides Iran with up to $7bn in sanctions relief over the course of the next six months. The relaxations also include a suspension of sanctions on precious metal trade as well as the shipping and auto industries, and notably lift the European Union's ban on insuring ships carrying Iranian oil.
"The relief itself is modest and its expected duration uncertain, but it gives the Iranian government time to improve the management of the economy, stabilize the foreign exchange market, and regain the trust of the private sector in government ability to deliver in their promises of a greater involvement of the private sector in economic activities," says Hashem Pesaran, professor of economics at Cambridge University.
Interestingly, the stock markets rallied at the news of an agreement both in Tehran and Tel Aviv, despite Netanyahu's war posturing. While Netanyahu's mouthpieces in the United States, the AIPAC lobbyists and following were screaming that Israel had been betrayed ("Munich", said the injudicious Harvard lawyer Dershowitz),and Senator John Bolton was howling for his war, Israel's own military and security experts seemed to be agreed that, actually, what has happened was not a bad deal. http://972mag.com/under-the-radar-israels-security-establishment-supports-new-iran-agreement/82421/
British Foreign Secretary William Hague has cautioned Netanyahu against launching an attack that would scupper the deal:
As Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu publicly announces Israel is not bound to nuclear deal signed between world powers and Iran in Geneva, the West now cautions Netanyahu of carrying out an operation that would challenge the deal he dubbed "a historic mistake".http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4457902,00.html
Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague said on Monday that Israel should avoid taking any action that would undermine the interim nuclear agreement reached between Iran and world powers.
Urging world leaders to give the interim deal a chance, Hague said it was important to try to understand those who opposed the agreement. But he urged Israel and others to confine their criticism to rhetoric.
"We would discourage anybody in the world, including Israel, from taking any steps that would undermine this agreement and we will make that very clear to all concerned," Hague told parliament.
Hague, who gave an update on the nuclear talks in Geneva, added he had not seen any signs that any country opposed to the agreement would try to disrupt it "in any practical way", but said Britain would be "on its guard".
The British top diplomat said however that he understood why Israel and Saudi Arabia are concerned with the deal. "They do all have very legitimate concerns about Iran's nuclear program and it's not surprising that people will be skeptical about any agreement. After all, Iran also has a history of not revealing the truth about its nuclear program to the rest of the world."
That last sentence leads me to an important point. As Hague well knows, the one country in the Middle East which is known to be a nuclear power is Israel, which certainly has a history of not revealing the truth about its nuclear program to the rest of the world.
The late David Ben Gurion lied about it to the Knesset, and nuclear technician Mordechai Vanunu spent 18 years in prison, 11 of them in solitary, for blowing the whistle about Israeli development and manufacture of nuclear weapons. In recent years Vanunu has twice been returned to the cell for having broken his parole by talking to foreigners.
Nevertheless, Vanunu has continued to raise his voice as best he could, both against Israel's forcible rule over the Palestinians and its nuclear madness. He has said that as a step towards making the world safe, such a volatile region as the Middle East should be free of nuclear weapons.
Surely now that Iran has agreed to dispel any suspicion that it intended producing nuclear weapons, and Syria has handed its chemical weapons over, it would be an especially good time to convince the Iranians they have done the right thing, and confirm the cleaning of the Middle East; by blocking any threat by the Saudis to acquire nuclear weapons from Pakistan, and demanding that Israel dismantle its nuclear capacity under international supervision too?. Now is the time to press for a nuclear weapon-free Middle East!