Never mind “workers of the world unite!” How about just “people of commonsense unite!” This new rallying call acquires cogency this week as the third round of talks gets underway in Geneva between Iran and the sextet of world powers, known as the P5+1, comprising US, Russia, China, Britain and France plus Germany.
A settlement to this 10-year dispute is long overdue. Accusations by the Western powers that Iran is stealthily aiming to build a nuclear weapon have at various times resulted in threats of war. The deadlock has also imposed a raft of withering economic sanctions that has hit hard the 80 million mainly civilian population of Iran. But these sanctions have also rebounded on the world economy, with Western markets and consumers also bearing the brunt of destabilizing trade restrictions.
Public opinion around the world seems decidedly in favor of a negotiated deal based on Iran’s right to develop peaceful nuclear energy. And such a settlement would result in prompt removal of Western imposed trade sanctions on Iran. It’s eminently commonsense.
The election of President Hassan Rouhani has brought a new thrust to Iranian diplomatic relations with Washington and its European allies. Iran’s openness to allay Western concerns that its nuclear program might have a military aspect is a confidence building measure that cannot be ignored.
Last week, Yukiya Amano, the head of the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, was in Tehran. It is understood that Iranian officials disclosed a roadmap of safeguards and oversight that would verify the civilian nature of Iran’s nuclear facilities. Amano has been no friend to Iran up to now and he has previously issued mischievous aspersion about the Iranian nuclear program. The fact that he appeared satisfied by the latest Iranian safeguards suggests that Tehran has indeed come up with groundbreaking proposals.
The essence of these proposals will already have been transmitted to Western governments at the previous two rounds of negotiations in Geneva on 15-16 October and 7-10 November. The cordial response from the P5+1 negotiators suggests that the Iranian offers of assurance are substantial.
Perhaps surprisingly, the Obama administration is saying that a deal with Iran this week is possible and that “modest sanctions relief” will follow. The White House has also rebuffed, albeit rather gently, hysterical calls by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the Geneva talks to be abandoned on the basis that they are merely an “Iranian ruse” designed to buy time to build a nuclear bomb.
President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry have also called on the US Senate to not go ahead with passing a new round of sanctions against Iran’s banking sector, saying that such a move would scuttle the diplomatic opening.
In this light, it seems significant that Israel is enlisting the French as its interlocutor at the Geneva talks…France’s President Francois Hollande arrived in Israel this week, three days before the opening of the third round of P5+1 negotiations in Geneva. The red carpet reception afforded to Hollande connoted that the Israelis are all too keen from France’s intervention at the last round of Geneva negotiations, which prevented a deal going through then. Citing “Israeli security concerns” on that occasion, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius is widely seen as having torpedoed those negotiations.
Speaking this week to Israeli parliamentarians, President Hollande pledged that France will take a tough stance towards Iran based on Israeli concerns. Hollande also did his best to sound moralistic and macho by saying that France was against nuclear proliferation in the Middle East.
At this point, we must invoke the manifesto of the world uniting with commonsense.
Israel, the country that has illegally acquired between 200 and 400 nuclear weapons and whose nuclear program is not under any international supervision, is exhorting the world to shut down uranium enrichment in Iran, ramp up trade sanctions, and if Iran does not comply then it should face military strikes.
Israel refuses to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), of which Iran is a signatory. Yet Israel, in a feat of astounding arrogance, presumes to intrude on the negotiations in Geneva between Iran and the P5+1 – negotiations that are under the remit of NPT principles.
The lawless state of Israel, which continues a decades-long genocidal occupation of Palestinian territory in complete defiance of international law, has this year alone bombed neighboring Syria on at least three occasions. That violation of Syrian sovereignty is a war crime, yet Israel carries out such crimes with a haughtiness and impunity bordering on insanity. This rogue nature underscores the gravity of numerous threats made by Netanyahu that Israel will “act alone” to attack Iran, whom he accuses of being a “threat to world peace”.
Meanwhile, the most unpopular French president ever arrives in Israel on the cusp of delicate talks in Geneva to indulge and pander to this reactionary, rogue regime. Hollande talks tough about Iran’s non-existent nuclear weapons while not saying a word about Israel’s massive illegal arsenal. The French leader says his county is against nuclear proliferation in the region, yet absurdly his words belie the fact that France played a crucial historical role in enabling Israel to proliferate its nuclear weapons illegally. In other words, France acted criminally to introduce nuclear weapons into a tinderbox region of the world, and now its leader has the audacity to insult common intelligence to claim that his country is against nuclear proliferation.
Hollande demanded this week four conditions off the Iranians for a deal at Geneva this week, including the closure of two of Iran’s three nuclear facilities at Fordow and Arak – the remaining one being at Bushehr. These imperious demands by Hollande sound like a throwback to colonial times of French arrogance, given that France generates some 80 per cent of its total energy from 59 nuclear power stations, and is reckoned to possess up to 500 nuclear warheads enough to destroy the planet.
The French penchant for pandering to reactionary regimes seems to know no bounds. When France’s Fabius threw a spanner into the last round of talks at Geneva, it is a safe bet that the French were also ingratiating themselves with the Persian Gulf Arab dictatorships of Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. The fundamentalist feudal regimes have emerged along with Israel as equally opposed to a deal between Iran and the P5+1 group. With billions-of-dollars-worth of commercial investments in the anemic French economy relying on the whimsical Gulf regimes, the theatrical intervention of France’s Fabius seems to have been motivated in large part to placate Wahhabi Arab hostility towards Shia Iran.
Of course, French appeasing of Saudi Arabia and the other Wahhabi Gulf autocrats over Iran is apiece with how Paris has been the most gung-ho out of the Western powers in colluding with these Arab proxies in the criminal regime change war on Iran’s ally, Syria, over the past two-and-a-half years.
So, this week it’s crunch time in Geneva. The people of the world want an end to a 10-year deadlock that has inflicted untold damage on international relations and which has continually flared tensions to war-making proportions.
Iran, by all accounts, is presenting a set of proposals that verify its legally entitled right to peaceful nuclear energy. As a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, Iran has the right “to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination” – according to Article IV of the NPT. This includes the right to enrich uranium without restriction or limit provided such activity is not weaponized.
Western attempts so far to de facto re-write the NPT in order to deny Iran the right to enrich uranium are baseless and untenable. From any reading of the NPT, there are absolutely no legal grounds for the Western countries to insist on such restriction, and there is no basis for France’s Hollande to issue his demand this week for the closure of Iranian nuclear facilities at Fordow and Arak. Hollande’s risible arrogance makes him sound like the ill-fated 18th Century Marie Antoinette, who entreated hungry peasants to eat cake before they hauled her off to the guillotine.
History and the diplomatic process have moved to a point of clarity that beckons a breakthrough at Geneva.
If Iran presents a failsafe proposal, which, through a credible system of inspection and oversight, makes the civilian, legitimate nature of its program irrefutable, then the Western powers are obligated to reciprocate. Surely, Russia and China will stand up to expose any Western prevarication and dissembling over the matter. And with the raging NSA spying scandal, Washington can expect little indulgence from the Germans too.
This is the commonsense expectation of the Geneva negotiations. If a breakthrough is not delivered, as commonsense surely dictates, then there are two conclusions to be made. Either the Western powers, led by the US, are intrinsically geared for conflict with Iran no matter what, or the world is being held to ransom by Israel, Saudi Arabia and the other Persian Gulf Arab despots pandered to by a pathetic French marionette-president.
Either way, such a negative outcome is completely unacceptable to world public opinion. We, the people of the world, need to unite to make sure a peaceful resolution is accomplished and accomplished urgently at Geneva. We’ve got nothing to lose except our brains.