A significant victory for the Iranian people in their ongoing struggle against imperialism
Terms of the agreement
After long and tortuous years of negotiations, of arbitrarily imposed and then discarded deadlines, and of crippling sanctions, destabilisation, threats of military aggression and attempts at regime change, that included fomenting a so-called ‘colour revolution’, cyber warfare and the murder of leading scientists, on 14 July, in the Austrian capital, Vienna, an agreement promising an end to the so-called Iranian nuclear issue was finally signed between Iran and the five members of the United Nations Security Council, the USA, Russia, Britain, France and China, along with Germany and the European Union.
In so far as it promises relief from the crippling regime of US, UN, EU and other sanctions, recognises Iran’s right to the development of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes,. and facilitates its improvement of bilateral relations with various countries, the agreement represents a considerable victory for Iran.
Iran has always stoutly denied any intention to develop nuclear weapons. The country’s supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei even issued a religious edict, which asserted that such weapons of mass destruction were forbidden in Islam. So, the US-led campaign, supported by various imperialist powers and such lickspittles as the Zionist regime and the feudal Saudi monarchy, was never about nuclear weapons – it was about destroying the Iranian revolution, about replacing a regime that maintains its independence and sovereignty at home and that supports progressive and anti-imperialist causes abroad, for example in Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Bahrain and Yemen, as well as further afield, in Latin America, for example, with a regime such as that of the late and unlamented Shah Reza Pahlavi, that would reopen Iran’s significant internal market and especially its stupendous reserves of oil and natural gas to unfettered and rapine imperialist pillage, would replace a beacon of anti-imperialism in the region with an imperialist gendarme and, not least, would significantly enhance the encirclement of China and Russia, a key part of US-led imperialism’s march to World War III.
The Vienna agreement represents a decisive failure of this US-led campaign. A previous US-UK sanctions embargo against Iran in 1953 saw the overthrow of the progressive government of Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh in a CIA/MI6 orchestrated coup after it had nationalised the country’s oil industry. A protracted and determined attempt to rerun this scenario has failed. It was not surprising therefore that there were celebrations in the streets of the capital Tehran and other Iranian cities when this agreement was announced.
In contrast to the bitter experience of the 1953 coup, the Preface to the 14 July agreement reads in part:
“This JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action] will produce the comprehensive lifting of all UN Security Council sanctions as well as multilateral and national sanctions related to Iran’s nuclear programme, including steps on access in areas of trade, technology, finance and energy .”
An end to sanctions, increased exports, particularly of oil and gas, and the unfreezing of hundreds of billions of dollars of frozen Iranian assets should contribute significantly to the development of the national economy and to improving the people’s living standards, both of which have been badly impacted by the sanctions regime.
The JCPOA also recognises Iran’s right to develop ” a peaceful nuclear programme, including its enrichment activities, to a commercial programme for exclusively peaceful purposes, consistent with international non-proliferation norms “.
The document further states: “Iran reaffirms that under no circumstances will Iran ever seek, develop or acquire any nuclear weapons.”
Reference to “international non-proliferation norms” relates to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and serves to highlight the double standards embodied in imperialism’s anti-Iran campaign. Whilst Iran has consistently pointed out that it has no intention of developing nuclear weapons and that its nuclear programme is for entirely peaceful purposes, namely power generation and medical applications, the most vociferous opponents of the agreement, and the most bellicose calls for war, have been found among the Israeli Zionist government – along with its supporters in the US Congress and Senate. Israel is in fact the only nuclear-armed state in the Middle East and is also one of the handful of states that has never signed the NPT. For its part, the United States, under successive administrations, has repeatedly threatened Iran with the use of nuclear weapons, stressing that ” no options are off the table“.
The price of agreement
The Vienna agreement does nothing to address the iniquities embodied in the NPT, which essentially enshrines a kind of global nuclear apartheid. Moreover, the complex inspections to which Iran has felt obliged to agree, in return for the step-by-step lifting of sanctions, provide numerous opportunities to use these International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspections to continually investigate and gain access to all manner of Iranian facilities and to make new demands, create new crises or even attempt to sabotage the whole agreement, should the political mood in Washington so dictate. (It is important, however, that Iran successfully resisted pressure to agree to the kind of “any time, anywhere” inspections that were used to pave the way for war against Iraq.)
Nevertheless, writing in the US newspaper Workers’ World, Sara Flounders was correct to observe that:
” Whenever any oppressed country, besieged by imperialism, is able to gain a treaty, gain even a temporary agreement or forestall an outright war while maintaining its sovereignty, it should be acknowledged as a victory over U.S. intransigence .”
Comrade Flounders was equally correct to add:
” The agreement on the part of US and Western corporate power is based on the arrogant hope of ensnaring Iran in a web of economic indebtedness, political compromises and social instability to ultimately regain control of Iran’s rich resources. So the agreement is hardly a finished product. It reflects an ongoing struggle .” (‘Nuclear Agreement – An historic moment for Iran’, 16 July 2015)
Resistance to the agreement in the US
For its own reasons, the Obama administration fought hard to secure an agreement with Iran – but it has faced determined opposition from right wing and pro-Israeli circles domestically, from the Israeli government and from the Saudi and other parasitic monarchical regimes in the Gulf, although these latter seem to have been momentarily silenced by a characteristic mixture of bombast and bribes at a regional meeting attended by US Secretary of State John Kerry. The US Congress, though, is still in the midst of a rancorous 60-day debate on the issue.
Obama has stated that if Congress passes a resolution against accepting the agreement, he will veto it. To override a veto would require a two-thirds vote in both the Senate and the House of Representatives, which is possible but unlikely.
No honour among thieves
In the event that the most reactionary and pro-Zionist forces in the US do succeed in preventing ratification of the deal, US imperialism will be left isolated internationally. Seeking to avail of business opportunities in the country, European politicians have been falling over themselves in the race to Tehran, with, in recent weeks, the Iranian capital receiving the Vice Chancellor of Germany, the French Foreign Minister, the EU Foreign Affairs Commissioner and the British Foreign Secretary, all setting out their stalls and seeking to elbow their rivals aside. In an ironic twist of inter-imperialist rivalry, Obama and Kerry might be entitled to feel chagrined at being pushed to the back of the queue for contracts by the French, who, in the course of the nuclear negotiations, consistently flirted with Tel Aviv, accusing the Americans of making too many concessions and attempting to scupper the deal. There is indeed no honour among thieves!
While US domestic politics plays out, one thing that is crucial for Iran is to start unravelling the UN Security Council resolutions that were imposed successively in 2006, 2008 and 2011, under heavy US pressure. During the Vienna talks Secretary of State Kerry argued that the Security Council should not vote on lifting sanctions until the US Congress had reviewed the deal. But this ran into opposition not only from Iran, Russia and China, but even from the US’s European allies, who all argued successfully that Security Council action should come first. Even Kerry felt moved to state on US television, that: “It’s presumptuous of some people to suspect that France, Russia, China, Germany, Britain ought to do what the Congress tells them to do.” (‘UN vote on Iran nuclear deal irks Congress’ by Michael R Gordon and David E Sanger, New York Times, 19 July 2015)
A key reason why the Obama administration has been keen to secure a deal with Iran lies in its wish to stabilise the Middle East to a degree, so as to be able to more fully concentrate on its so-called ‘pivot to Asia’, that is the weakening, containment and encircling of the People’s Republic of China, in particular. In their more optimistic moments, a section of the US ruling class even likes to contemplate an Iran detached from its friendship with China and Russia and mobilised as a western strategic asset. Such hopes are almost certainly illusory – Iran’s ties with both Russia and China are not only close, but also getting steadily closer. In particular, as an observer, Iran is an active participant in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), a China and Russia-led security organisation. With the nuclear deal in place, Iran’s admission to full SCO membership is but a matter of time and this will significantly strengthen the anti-imperialist united front.
The Vienna agreement represents a significant victory for Iran, but the struggle continues and Iran will continue to need the solidarity of all anti-imperialists.