Peace Dividends from Iran Nuclear Deal


Edmond Azadian

Edmond Azadian

By Edmond Y. Azadian

Iran’s nuclear deal brought a sigh of relief in some quarters and set off battle drums in others.

The sigh of relief for now is confined mostly to the Middle East and the Caucasus, where the prospect of a new war had been looming for a long time. The drumbeats are emanating from Israel and those rallying around it in the US Congress. Seldom has the US Congress witnessed such bipartisan unity against the chief executive; both Democrats and Republicans are riled up against President Obama, who has dared to risk the ire of Prime Minister Netanyahu and proceeded with the negotiations to achieve the Iran deal.

The US public is weary of endless wars and bloodshed without any particular benefit for the country. Recently, presidential hopeful Jeb Bush conceded that the Iraq war was a mistake. Of all the people, even former President George Bush  apologized to the American people for his misguided policy in Iraq, where 4,500 young men and women in uniform lost their lives and more than 50,000 returned shattered either physically, mentally or both. A recent Veterans Administration report noted that on average, every day 20 suicides are committed by Vietnam and Iraq war veterans. Therefore, the carnage is continuing, not on hostile battlefields, but at home. President Bush’s belated apology for the Iraq misadventure, like President Clinton’s apology for inaction in the face of the Rwandan Genocide, will sound hollow to the victims of the atrocities.

The only people who were happy with those bloodbaths were the arms manufacturers and merchants, led by Vice President Dick Cheney, who to this day is still waiting for the “thankful” Iraqi people to come up with flowers and greet him for his monumental blunder.

The stated purposes of these wars was to bring democracy and peace to the region. If the bloodbaths in Iraq, Libya and Syria look like democracy, we need to find another term for mass atrocities.

The euphemism of democracy served only as a veneer for justifying those wars. Although President Bush names neo-con leaders including Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith and others for pushing his administration to war, he courageously admits that he bears the ultimate responsibility of his fateful decision.

For Mr. Cheney, it was in the cards to extend the war into Syria and Iran, had the war in Iraq turned out to be a cakewalk, an outcome which they had wrongly predicted.

Very few people will realize that those wars fully achieved their goal which certainly was not bringing democracy to any people. The unelected officials who duped President Bush into war had very clear objectives: to create controlled chaos around Israel and charge Washington to manage that chaos. Saddam Hussein, Gaddafi and Assad all along had been considered security threats to Israel because of their support for the Palestinian people. The first two are already gone and the third is hanging on for dear life and no longer posing any threat to neighbors.

No wonder that New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman reminded Prime Minister Netanyahu that with all of his enemies dead or moribund, he is free to impose any deal on the Palestinian people.

President Obama realized that 4,500 American lives and $2 trillion of wasted war budget were more than enough to feed the Middle Eastern chaos and he opted for the diplomatic venue to solve most intractable problems in the region. Of course, he would not have gambled on a peace initiative if he did not enjoy the support of more moderate Jewish lobbying groups opposed to Netanyahu’s maximalist goals.

The Iran deal was part and parcel of Obama’s world view, in which the restoration of diplomatic relations with Cuba and promising to stay out of South American affairs (contrary to Venezuelan President Maduro’s crying wolf), is a reversal of Secretary of State Kissinger’s policy of planting bloodthirsty dictators like Videla in Argentina and Pinochet in Chile.

He even had the courage to articulate that to solve the Syrian crisis, Assad needs to be a part of the solution rather than the problem.

The world has to realize that this is a rare moment of aspiration of peace and it may not last very long, since the presidential hopefuls in both camps are still in the mood for bombing Iran.

The US Congress has 60 days to ratify the Iran deal. Battle lines already have been drawn and even many legislators from the President’s party are marching in lockstep with Prime Minister Netanyahu, who calls the agreement a “bad, bad deal.”

The UN Security Council ratified the Iran nuclear deal unanimously. It was negotiated between the five Security Council members plus Germany and Iran. However, no one anticipates an easy ratification process in the US Congress. Even if the Congress votes against the deal, President Obama has promised to use his veto, which will stand, since it does not appear that the opponents can muster the two-thirds votes necessary to override the veto.

Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner believes that the deal “will embolden” Iran. President Obama insists that the deal will make the world “safer and more secure,” especially when it comes to Israel, as tight controls will be imposed on Iran’s nuclear missile plans for the first time. In his turn, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who led his delegation at the Vienna negotiations, stated that the deal was not “perfect for anybody” but that it was the “best achievement possible that could be reached.”

After six years of negotiations, Iran will be gradually relieved of crippling sanctions. Conventional arms sales to Iran will be delayed for six years, but frozen Iranian assets will be returned to Tehran. Iran will access the oil and gas world market, but that will not make an immediate impact as Iran has to overhaul its obsolete oil-drilling infrastructure, which has been degraded because of the sanctions.

In both camps, it is believed that once a major hurdle is removed, the road will be paved to tackle other conflicts in the Middle East. In Iraq, the US and Iranian policies are tacitly coordinated. In Yemen, Tehran’s support of Houthi rebels angers Saudi Arabia, a major US ally in the Middle East. In Syria, Turkey, with its support of Islamic State, confronts Russia and Iran, with the US caught in between. The Palestinian problem has no immediate prospect for a solution, because the Obama administration cannot further aggravate Netanyahu’s conservative government.

There will be more peace dividends in the Caucasus, with the relaxation of political pressures on Iran from the West will bring  the perennial Turkish-Iranian rivalry to a plainer field. Azerbaijan’s value as a military asset will subside, once the prospect of a military attack by the West is removed.

The development of Iran’s economy will have a spill-over effect in Armenia. The two countries have the potential for $1.2-billion bilateral trade but as of last year, that figure had not surpassed the $300-million mark. Because of the sanctions, the export of meat products to Iran had been blocked. The construction of a power plant on the Arax River was suspended, which may now be revived. Iran’s ambassador to Yerevan believes that Armenia can become a trade corridor between the Gulf nations and the Black Sea. For that to occur, a railway link has to be established. The president of the Russian railway system, which controls Armenia’s railways, Vladimir Bakunin, does not see any prospect for restoring the rail link between Armenia and Iran, but China is interested in investing in the project as a complementary component of the Silk Road.

Although the Russian-Armenian gas deal does not allow Yerevan to buy cheaper gas from Iran, the Armenian government may find a way the Russian partners to relieve the economic distress in Armenia, which has triggered recent political unrest.

With the removal of the threat from the Iranian border, Armenia will be one of the first beneficiaries in the neighborhood.

With the emergence of peace prospects and with the return of Iran to the world market, Armenia can hope for a more assertive role in the region.