By Owei Lakemfa
THE United States, US, on May 21, rolled out sanctions against Iran, a move that may return the world to the nuclear race. On May 8, 2018, against pleadings from its European allies, peace ambassadors and people of goodwill across the globe, President Donald Trump had unilaterally abrogated the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, otherwise known as the Iran Nuclear Deal.
The new American Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo announced the imposition of the new sanctions and a dozen demands Iran must comply with before new negotiations can take place. Only four of the demands have bearing on the nuclear issue, the rest are political demands including a little veiled demand that Iran commits political suicide. In other words, the Trump administration is deliberately making impossible demands on Iran and trying to provoke and lay it open to military attack.
Pompei admitted as much when he declared: “The Iranian regime should know that this is just the beginning…We will work to prevent and counteract any Iranian malign cyber activity. We will track down Iranian operatives and their Hezbollah proxies operating around the world and crush them. Iran will never again have carte blanche to dominate the Middle East.”
Unlike the US and eight other countries, Iran does not possess nuclear weapons. The agreement was meant to freeze its nuclear programme, roll back its proliferation-sensitive elements and allow enhanced international monitoring of its activities to ensure it does not return to the nuclear path. In return, all sanctions against Iran were lifted.
The Ploughshares Fund which monitors nuclear weapons in the world, says the US and Russia account for 90 per cent of the total 14,175 nuclear weapons in the world. Russia has 6,600, the US, 6,450, France, 300, China,270, United Kingdom, 215, Pakistan, 130, India, 120, Israel, 80 and North Korea, 15 nuclear weapons.
Ironically, it was the US that in November 1967, set Iran on the nuclear path by supplying its first nuclear reactor; the five-megawatt Tehran Research Reactor ,TRR. That was when Iran was its political ally with Shah Reza Pahlavi as Head of State. The 1979 Iranian Revolution headed by Ayatollah Ruhollah Musavi Khomeini led to the political differences between both countries that have festered to this day.
America and its Western allies were panicky about Iran progressing on the nuclear path and began imposing a range of sanctions. On June 6, 2006, the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council; US, Russia, China, France and the United Kingdom, referred to as the P5, and Germany, which collectively became known as the P5+1, began talks with Iran on its nuclear programme. An agreement was reached on November 24, 2013 and Iran agreed to immediately put a stop to its nuclear programme. On January 12, 2014, the implementation of the agreement began. The comprehensive agreements were signed on July 14, 2015 by Iran, the P5+1, and the European Union.
It is these Talks and Agreement that took almost a decade, that America has unilaterally cancelled. Only the first four of the American twelve demands are nuclear-related and they essentially refer to issues covered during the Talks. The other eight are about politics. One demand is that Iran releases all US citizens as well as citizens of its allies irrespective of whatever crime they might have committed. A second demand is that Iran should end support to Middle East “terrorist” groups, including Hezbollah and Hamas.
The Hezbollah (the Party of God) one of Lebanon’s political parties, with its allies, won over 50 per cent of that country’s parliamentary seats in the May, 2018 elections. It was founded in 1982 following Israel’s invasion of Lebanon. In 2000, it forced Israel to withdraw from Lebanon. Six years later, Hezbollah, led by the charismatic Hassan Nasrallah engaged Israel in a 34-Day inconclusive war; the first armed group to fight the Israeli armed forces to a standstill.
When the Islamic State, ISIS, and the terrorist al-Nustra Front invaded Syria, the Hezbollah crossed into Syria to fight them and stop Syria from falling into their arms. On the other hand, Hamas is the radical Palestinian party that runs Gaza. America hopes to weaken these groups by seeking to force Iran to cut ties with them.
Another American demand is that Iran ‘respects the sovereignty of the Iraqi Government and permit the disarming, demobilisation and reintegration of Shia militias.’ Interestingly, it is America, not Iran that invaded Iraq and is still occupying it. How does it want Iran to disarm groups in Iraq; how can Iran go and clean up the mess it has turned the once, prosperous and united Iraq into?
The US also wants Iran to ‘end its military support for the Houthi rebels and work towards a peaceful, political settlement in Yemen.’ The Houthis are a repressed minority in Yemen who staged an uprising, and after allying with the Yemeni armed forces, seized government. Since then, some Arab countries backed by the US, have turned Yemen into a killing field, bombing all gatherings including markets, schools, hospitals and social gatherings. Rather than stop the massacres and sue for peace, America wants Iran to help repress the Houthis.
America also wants Iran to ‘withdraw all forces under its command throughout the entirety of Syria.’ As we all know, there is a Civil War going on in Syria with American, Russian and Turkish armies involved. America is not talking about its involvement in that war – in which in 2014 it backed the terrorist ISIS and al-Nusra Front – nor withdrawing its troops.
It also demands that Iran end ‘support for the Taliban and other terrorists in Afghanistan.’ It was the US that invaded Afghanistan and continues to occupy that country. How can it be Iran’s headache to solve the American debacle in Afghanistan?
There are also bland demands like asking Iran to ‘End its threatening behaviour against its neighbours, many of whom are US allies…’ What is “threatening behaviour”?
The American sanctions will doubtlessly hurt Iran, but it will also hurt a lot of American and European companies and banks. The EU says it is committed to keeping the Iran nuclear deal alive and protecting European companies against US sanctions. Their loss may be the gain of Chinese and Russian firms and banks which would move in to fill the vacuum.
The behaviour and actions of President Trump are capable of putting the world in a spin. But when the actions of a man are quite destructive, a sort of bull in a china shop, you do not confront him with logic or common sense or the morality that it is bad to be a vandal, you beg; on the Iran Nuclear deal and related issues, we should beg Washington for a positive rethink.