A deal has been reached between US imperialism and Iran in relation to Iran’s nuclear industry.
At this stage it is ‘Heads of Terms’ only – the specific provisions that will bind both sides remain to be negotiated. Even the Heads of Terms have not been published and there is a wide divergence between the US and Iran as to what was actually agreed. Each side has published its own statement as to what has been agreed, but there are major differences between them.
According to the US, what was agreed was that under this ‘deal’, Iran effectively hobbles its nuclear industry to the extent that US imperialism can be sure it would be quite unable to produce a nuclear weapon, notwithstanding the fact that it has the necessary know-how and qualified personnel to do so, at less than a year’s notice. According to the Financial Times, of Iran’s 19,000 centrifuges, it will keep only 5,060 older ones in operation, which will only be allowed to enrich uranium to 3.67%, well below weapons grade. Iran’s Arak heavy water research reactor, which would be capable of producing enough plutonium for a nuclear bomb, will lose its original core which will either be destroyed or removed from the country, and Iran undertakes not to build any other heavy water reactor for 15 years. For the next 20-25 years international inspectors are to have the run of Iran’s complete nuclear complex – enrichment plants, uranium mines, the factories that manufacture machinery for use in the nuclear industry and their storage facilities, with inspectors being given access to both declared and undeclared sites.
The US administration’s 5-page list of concessions allegedly made by Iran in return for the lifting of sanctions was curtly dismissed as ‘spin’ by Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister, and Iran issued a complaint to John Kerry about it.
Among the issues on which there are clear differences as to what exactly was agreed are the following:
Whereas the US statement claims that Iran will shrink its uranium stockpile to 300kg, this is not mentioned in the Iranian one.
The Iranians state that there will be increased cooperation between Iran and all the other parties to the negotiations that would include the construction of nuclear power plants, research reactors and the use of isotopes for medical purposes – an issue on which the US statement is silent.
While both statements say that Iran will be barred from producing uranium for at least 10 years, the Iranians claim it is nevertheless permitted to use its advanced centrifuges for the purpose of research. The US says that research will be strictly limited.
The US claims that almost two-thirds of the centrifuges at the Fordow underground nuclear installation will be removed, although Iran will be allowed to convert the facility into a science and technology centre. The Iranians, however, state that over 1,000 centrifuges will remain there. Separately it has claimed that the modifications could rapidly be reversed if the US did not keep its part of the bargain.
Whereas Iran insists that sanctions are to be removed immediately the final deal is signed (before 30 June), the US statement states that sanctions will only be removed piecemeal as and when agreed measures are implemented.
For his part Ayatollah Khamenei, whose word is law in Iran, has declared that unless there is immediate lifting of sanctions on the signing of the final agreement, then the agreement will not be signed by Iran.
Hence there is still plenty of scope for the collapse of this much-hailed agreement. Creeping up on US imperialism on the one hand and Iran on the other is the issue of Yemen, where US imperialism is seeking by military force – for the moment confined to bombing – through its client, the Saudi Arabian obscurantist regime, to restore to power the government of Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, its docile puppet recently deposed by the people of Yemen led by the Shia Houthi movement to which Iran is naturally sympathetic – an issue that is bound to strengthen the hands of those both in the US and in Iran who are opposed to the deal.
Can US imperialism be trusted to keep to its side of the bargain, whatever that is?
Another problem is that it is a lot quicker and easier to re-impose sanctions than to replace nuclear reactors that have been destroyed. Nicholas Burns, a professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School and a former US undersecretary of state, wrote in the Financial Times of 4 April 2015 (‘Imperfect deal will help an uneasy peace’):
” There are those who object that 6,000 centrifuges are far more than Iran should be allowed to keep, and that the current deal does not demand an Iranian capitulation.
“But it is unrealistic to try to resurrect the demands of a decade ago. Iran now has the scientific and engineering knowledge needed to build a nuclear weapon. But the framework agreement will put the country at least a year away from having enough weapons-grade uranium to make a bomb.
“That is a deal worth getting, even if it does not seem so to Benjamin Netanyahu or to some conservative US lawmakers”.
Paul Craig Roberts, a former defence adviser to Ronald Reagan, but now a leading critic of the US imperialist regime, considers that upon Iran giving up the right to develop nuclear energy it has under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, of which it is a signatory, it can be expected that Washington will renege on any commitments it makes:
“The real question, however, is on what basis can Iran possibly trust Washington?
“Iran should ask former Soviet president Gorbachev what Washington’s word is worth. In exchange for Gorbachev’s agreement to the reunification of Germany, Washington promised Gorbachev that NATO would not move one inch to the East and promptly took NATO to Russia’s border and is now working to incorporate former parts of the Russian empire into NATO.
“Iran should ask current Russian president Putin what Washington’s word is worth. Sensing Russian strategic weakness, the George W. Bush regime broke the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty that Washington had signed with Moscow. Pulling out of the treaty, Washington quickly put anti-ballistic missile bases on Russia’s borders, hoping to degrade Russia’s strategic missile forces that serve as a guardian against Washington’s first nuclear strike, a policy now permissible under Washington’s revised war doctrine.”
In short, ” An agreement with Washington is a prelude to treachery. It puts the signer at ease while Washington prepares the signer’s doom. This is the way Washington operates…
“Throughout history Washington has proven conclusively that its word is not worth the paper it is written on.
“Everyone who ever trusted Washington has been betrayed. Possibly there is an exception somewhere, but the betrayals are vast and are sufficient in number to define Washington as the least trusted entity on the earth. No extant entity has broken more agreements than Washington.” (‘The Iran Nuclear Energy Agreement: Force Again Prevails Over Law’, 7 April 2015,
Perhaps a portent of US imperialism’s lack of good faith is its recent refusal of an entry visa to Hamid Aboutalebi who has been named as Tehran’s new ambassador to the United Nations. The reason for refusing? Because in 1979, 36 years ago, Aboutalebi was slightly involved in translating for the students who took 52 Americans hostage at the US embassy in Tehran. It’s obviously a humiliation about which the mighty US still feels mighty vindictive.
Iran’s case for reaching agreement
However, it should be noted that although it seems that Iran which is giving up its undoubted right to develop nuclear weapons for self-defence and is decimating its nuclear facilities, is, as the experience of Iraq teaches us, taking a rather dangerous step, in fact Iran has always insisted it is not interested in manufacturing nuclear weapons anyway, so at a certain level the concessions it is making only amount to providing imperialism with irrefutable evidence that this is the case. Nevertheless, by giving up its physical ability to produce nuclear weapons should they be needed for the purposes of deterring military aggression, one cannot help feeling Iran is certainly putting itself at risk.
US imperialism which has a massive nuclear arsenal is conceding nothing. In the words of David Gardner of the Financial Times, (‘An undue frostiness greets Iran’s nuclear spring’, 15 April 2014) if hawks could crow then on both sides they would now be doing so. US imperialist bullying, aided and abetted by EU imperialist bullying, has achieved critical concessions at no cost to itself by merely promising to reduce its bullying, but it seems there is nothing to prevent it finding some other casus belli once Iran’s nuclear industry has been largely incapacitated. In fact Israel could feel encouraged to go it alone in launching a military attack on Iran once it was certain it did not risk nuclear obliteration by doing so.
But we are told the Iranian ‘hawks’ are crowing too. How could that be?
On the other hand, once UN sanctions, as opposed to unilateral US sanctions, have been lifted, it is likely to prove impossible to re-impose them since Russia and China who both hold Security Council vetoes, are unlikely to repeat their mistake of permitting these sanctions in the first place. In fact, Russia is already negotiating a $20 billion sanctions-busting oil deal with Iran.
More importantly even is that Russia has seized the opportunity to unblock a freeze it had in 2009 imposed, but only in response to heavy pressure from the US and Israel, on delivery to Iran of one of the world’s most advanced air defence systems. The establishment of this air defence system could be an even more effective deterrent against foreign attack than the power to retaliate with a nuclear bomb. So long as Iran can defend itself against the kind of imperialist aggression that led to the overthrow of the legitimate governments of Iraq and Libya, for instance, it can afford to submit to at least some of US imperialism’s unreasonable demands on curtailing its nuclear industry.
It is this that explains Israel’s virulent opposition to the deal that has caused major differences to arise between the Israeli and US administrations.
On the face of it, then, it would seem that reaching a deal represents a win for Iran against the forces of imperialist reaction. This circumstance is already convincing US militarists that the deal is a mistake and ought not to be concluded. Obama has conceded to them the promise that he will not push through the terms of any final agreement reached on the basis of his presidential powers but will put it to Congress for approval- his Party is after all keen to win the next election and does not want to offend people unnecessarily. However, the current thinking is that it is unlikely opponents of the deal will be able to muster the 67 votes needed to block it. US multinational profiteers have been gritting their teeth in rage at the ability of their rivals from other parts of the world to get their hands on lucrative contracts their government has forbidden them to bid for, and it is these commercial interests which have finally persuaded Obama that it is time to normalise relations with Iran.