Good news for Good Friday and maybe a good beginning
IT'S good news for the Easter weekend, and for the end of the Persian Spring festival Nawroz. A great power agreement with Iran has been reached, providing for limits on the country's nuclear energy development to prevent it obtaining weapon capacity. In return, the United States-led sanctions which have hit Iran's economy, and ordinary Iranians' life particularly, are to be lifted.
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said a "decisive step" had been reached. The White House said its sanctions -"the toughest in history" -had brought Iran to the conference table, and negotiations had achieved a comprehensive agreement which President Obama called "a good deal".
In Iran, there was open jubilation on the streets of Tehran as the news of the deal came on Thursday night. This morning thousands gathered at Mehrabad airport to greet chief nuclear negotiator Mohammad Javad Zarif and his team as they arrived back from the talks in Lausanne, Switzerland.
"Zarif, thank you,” people chanted while waving the Islamic republic’s green, white and red flag. Others took out their mobile phones to take pictures of a man who will become a national hero if a final agreement, due in June, is reached.
The news should be brightening up Passover too; but it has not been welcomed by the Israeli government, which was opposed to the negotiations with Iran, and doesn't want to lose the Iranian bogeyman and its supposed nuclear threat, as a diversion from its own aggressive policies, and to keep its own people -and international supporters -in line.
Here are the details of the agreement, as reported in the Israeli daily Ha'aretz:
Iran, six world powers framework agreement: The main terms
Under comprehensive agreement to be signed on June 30, Tehran will continue to operate 5,000 centrifuges at Natanz, all sanctions on Iran will be lifted.
By Barak Ravid | Apr. 2, 2015 | 9:15 PM
The United States, Iran and five other world powers say they've reached an understanding that will direct them toward achieving a comprehensive nuclear agreement within three months.
Reading out a joint statement, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said a "decisive step" has been achieved. Iran's Mohammad Javad Zarif read out the same statement in Farsi.
U.S. President Barack Obama, making a statement on the breakthrough in the talks, said U.S. and allies reached a historic nuclear deal with Iran, which he called, "A good deal."
The main points of the framework agreement reached:
The agreement term: The agreement will be in effect for between 10 and 15 years during which there will be strict limitations and oversight of the Iranian nuclear program. Some of the clauses of the agreement will be in effect for 20 to 25 years.
Uranium enrichment: Iran will continue to operate 6,104 out of the 19,000 centrifuges within its territory. All of the centrifuges in operation will of the oldest generation Iran has. Iran will deliver the 1,000 advanced centrifuges in its possession to the International Atomic Energy Agency.
For 10 years, Iran will be able to operate only 5060 centrifuges at the Natanz uranium enrichment facility.
Iran pledged that for 15 years it will not enrich uranium to more than 3.5 percent – a level at which a nuclear weapon cannot be produced. Iran has pledged that for 15 years it will not build another nuclear facility besides the one at Natanz.
All additional enrichment materials – including 5,000 additional centrifuges that are at Natanz will be collected and placed for safekeeping under the oversight of the IAEA.
Iran’s enriched uranium stockpile: Iran agreed to do away with most of its stockpile of uranium enriched to the relatively low levels of 3.5, and which now stands at nearly 10 tons. This stockpile will be diluted to a level that cannot be used for making nuclear weapons, or will be taken out of the country. For 15 years, Iran will not be in possession of more than 300 kilograms of low-level enriched uranium.
The underground nuclear reactor at Fordo: This site will be converted from an enrichment facility into a nuclear physics research facility. Iran pledged that for 15 years it will not enrich uranium at Fordo and will not carry out research and development in the realm of uranium enrichment there. Iran pledged that for 15 years it will not store fissile nuclear material at the Fordo site. Out of 3,000 centrifuges currently installed at Fordo, 1,000 will remain operational there, though not for enriching uranium. The remaining 2,000 centrifuges will be conveyed for safekeeping to the IAEA.
The Arak heavy water reactor: Iran agreed to replan the reactor, in conjunction with the six world powers, so that it cannot produce material that could be used for nuclear weapons. The current reactor core, from which a large quantity of plutonium can already be produced, will be destroyed or removed from Iran. As long as the reactor is operational, Iran will remove from the country all the nuclear fuel it used at the reactor. Iran has pledged not to build another heavy water reactor for 15 years.
Research and development: For 10 years, Iran will not make use for uranium enrichment of the advanced centrifuges it is developing. Iran can continue limited research and development of advanced centrifuges in accordance with agreements it will reach with the world powers.
Oversight: The IAEA will receive free and regular access to all of Iran’s nuclear facilities and will be able to use advanced technology to monitor Iranian activity. The IAEA will follow up raw materials and parts that have been used in the nuclear program to ascertain that they are not being used for a covert nuclear program. The IAEA will monitor uranium mines in Iran for 25 years. The IAEA will monitor storage and assembly facilities for centrifuges in Iran for 20 years.
Iran will sign and ratify the additional protocol of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, which stipulates that IAEA inspectors can conduct unrestricted random searches at any suspicious facility in Iran.
Iran will implement its agreement with the IAEA to clarify suspicions of the existence of military aspects to Iran’s nuclear program.
Sanctions: After implementation of the agreement by Iran, all sanctions that applied on Iran by the United States and the EU on banking, insurance, and oil will be lifted immediately. The UN Security Council will make a resolution that will replace six earlier resolutions that leveled sanctions on Iran, and will decide which of the sanctions will remain in place. If Iran breaks the agreement, the sanctions related to its nuclear program will be reinstated immediately. The American sanctions on Iran in the realm of terror, human rights violations and Iran’s missile program will remain in place.
Netanyahu has now tried to pull back the goal posts by demanding that sanctions should not be lifted on Iran until its leaders recognise the Israeli state's "right to exist". Coming after the Israeli leader's claim that Israel represents all Jewish people wherever they live, and his pledge during election to never accept a Palestinian state, this is a return to the lie that any questioning of the state's legitimacy or future is equivalent to an existential, even genocidal threat.
This used to make great play with former President Ahmedinejad's demagogy, quoting him as threatening to "wipe Israel off the map", although other accounts had him promising that the Zionist state would be erased from the history books - not quite the same. In any case it is the Israeli state that has done everything to wipe Palestine from the map, literally and through settlements and land-grabbing.
Iranian leaders have repeatedly denied the intention of developing nuclear weapons, and Ayatollah Khamenei says these are against Islam. As I have pointed out more than once, if Iran wants to help the Palestinians it would be crazy to use nuclear weapons against Israel, which would most probably destroy Al Aksa and inevitably kill huge numbers of Palestinians and devastate their country. Palestinians want to regain their homeland, not inherit radio-active ruins.
One Israeli who says he is not afraid of the big, bad Iranian bomb is veteran fighter and peace campaigner Uri Avnery. He says if Israel really wants acceptance by Iranians it must stop repressing the Palestinians, and make peace with Palestine.
It has been revealed that in 2011 Netanyahu pulled support from negotiations with the Palestinian leadership when they were near agreement, even though it would have been far from satisfactory for the Palestinians. He did not want any deal at all.
This week, while the Iranians were negotiating in Iran, it was reported that the Israeli air force was operating alongside the Saudis against Houthi rebels in Yemen, who are linked with Iran. Although the Saudis and their allies say they want to avoid civilian targets they have so far hit at least one factory, and a refugee camp. The Houthis, of course, do not have an airforce, and from what I have seen so far they are neither as well-armed nor as murderous as the ISIL barbarians. They are after all fighting in their own country. Whether or not Israel has anything to gain from joining a Sunni-Shia war, this is no way of pursuing peace with Iran.
One argument some people have made for Iran's right to develop nuclear weapons is that they are a deterrent. I don't go along with deterrent theory myself. But it is a fact that if Iran relinquishes the production of nuclear weapons, that leaves one existing nuclear power in the Middle East, and that of course is Israel.
As a reward perhaps for Netanyahu's trip to Washington and attempt to stop the nuclear talks, the US State Department released previously classified documents about Israel's nuclear weapons. One of Israel's supporters - a UKIP candidate in Hendon - was so outraged he said Mossad should kidnap Obama for the crime of "revealing state secrets". How a UK patriot claims the right to tell a US government its duty to guard Israeli government secrets, we won't ask. Vorwarts putz gefahren, as they say in Yiddish. And now he's an ex-UKIP candidate. Too much even for Hendon.
I'm one of the generation for whom mention of nuclear weapons at Easter time brings memories of the road from Aldermaston to London. It must be about 56 years since, together with a contingent of blueshirted Habonimniks who'd been attending an activity near Reading, I joined a section of the march, even managing to steer our lot behind some 'Keep Left' Young Socialists. Though some of us kept up our interest in CND, Habonim did not. Possibly the news that Israel, with then Defence Minister Shimon Peres, was acquiring nuclear weapons with help from France, might have dissuaded enthusiasm.
Not till 1986 did Mordechai Vanunu reveal the extent of Israel's nuclear weapons production, and for this he was kidnapped by Mossad and spent eighteen years in jail, 11 of them in solitary. Today Vanunu is not allowed out of Israel, nor supposed to speak to journalists, but he did manage to inspire an Israeli Committee for a Nuclear-Free Middle East, which argues for nukes and other weapons of mass destruction to be removed from this volatile region as a step towards world disarmament.
This would not of course be popular with Netanyahu, still less with some of the fanatical Christian Zionists in America for whom a nuclear armageddon in the Middle East is seen as one way of speeding the Rapture and Second Coming.
But success in the nuclear limitation talks with Iran must raise the issue of the next step. Opening Israel's nuclear industry to international inspection, and removing the Zionist state's nuclear weapons, and with them any temptation for other states to follow that road to disaster.
America has the power to bring this about, if it wills, and even talk of sanctions could be persuasive.