Iran nuclear deal a welcome historic development ~ Haroon Siddiqui, Columnist, Toronto Star.
The deal is very much in America’s interest — and Canada’s, if we could only acknowledge that.
Had Stephen Harper not closed our embassy in Tehran last year, Canada could’ve played a role between the West and Iran in the nuclear deal done Saturday. And we certainly would have been in a good position in the months ahead to help implement this historic agreement.
No other American ally was better suited, given Canada’s heroic role during the 1979-80 American hostage crisis in Tehran, when Ken Taylor, our envoy there, sheltered six Americans in his house for months and spirited them out on false Canadian passports — a story told in the movie Argoand this year’s Canadian documentary Our Man in Tehran.
Americans remained forever grateful to us. Iranians, initially miffed, resumed normal relations. That was abruptly upended by Harper 14 months ago in what was seen as a favour to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was getting nowhere with Barack Obama on being tough on Iran.
No surprise, then, that Ottawa is faithfully echoing Netanyahu’s rejection of the nuclear deal as dangerous. Worse, Foreign Minister John Baird is invoking a strange rationale: “A nuclear Iran is not just a threat to Canada or its allies, it would also…” In fact, Iran poses no conceivable threat to Canada.
Others opposing a compromise with Iran have been Saudi Arabia, Egypt and some other Persian Gulf states. This is a strange amalgam of dictatorships and Israel and Canada.
The deal between Iran, on the one hand, and the U.S., Russia, China, Britain and France (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council) plus Germany, on the other, is welcome, on several counts:
- Iran’s nuclear program is more or less frozen. Even its highly enriched uranium is to be converted to ordinary fuel. Construction of a controversial new heavy water reactor is postponed. The entire nuclear program comes under more international inspection.
Iran gets modest sanctions relief and release of $4.2 billion of its own money from oil sales, frozen by the U.S. The rest is small change.
The contentious issue of whether Iran has the right to enrich uranium, as per the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, is fudged. Iran can continue to claim it, while the West can go on saying otherwise.
The notion that Iran couldn’t even have basic uranium enrichment, and that all its enriched uranium had to be shipped out of the country, was never really in the cards.
- Ending the 33-year cold war between Iran and America effectively ends the prospects of a real war on Iran by the U.S. and by Israel (even as Netanyahu continues to claim that he keeps that option).
The prospect of peace also reduces the influence of the hawks in the U.S., who have kept cranking up economic sanctions for three decades. Iran has not been brought to its knees. In fact, it has emerged as a regional power.
- While Iran would never be a client state of the U.S., it could be persuaded to help stabilize places where it has considerable influence — Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon and the Gaza Strip.
- Iran has not waged a large-scale war on anyone in contemporary history. Despite all its crude rhetoric against the U.S. and Israel — the “great Satan” and the “Little Satan” — the Iranian regime was pragmatic enough to help the U.S. in toppling the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2001.
The people of Iran are not implacably anti-American. In Muslim nations (Pakistan, Afghanistan, Egypt, etc.), governments tend to be pro-American and the people anti-American, but the opposite has been true in Iran. Iranians were among the first to hold a candlelight vigil within hours of 9/11. But forced to choose between foreign demands for giving up the nuclear program and their own government standing up for it, Iranian were bound to opt for nationalism, given America’s and Britain’s history of supporting the dictatorships of the first and the second shah.
Ending Iran’s isolation and helping to improve the economic lot of ordinary Iranians also holds the best hope of loosening the iron grip of the theocratic regime in Tehran.
- The deal represents a much-needed victory for Obama. He has been dithering on Syria, Egypt and Afghanistan. But he stayed firm on the diplomatic course on Iran, for the reasons outlined above and also because American public opinion is both against another war in the Middle East and in favour of a diplomatic solution on Iran.
Netanyahu presented Iran as posing an existential threat to Israel. This was not universally accepted in Israel itself, where a strong body of opinion held that Israel obviously wants to maintain its nuclear hegemony in the region and has found Iran a useful distraction from the failure to end the long Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands.
As for the Saudis and some of their Sunni Muslim allies, they have a sectarian reason to keep Shiite Iran as a pariah state and a strategic reason to keep it weak.
None of those reasons is in the American, or Canadian, interest.
Obama could not have missed the opportunity opened with the election in June of the moderate Hassan Rouhani as president. In 2003, George W. Bush spurned an offer by another moderate president, Mohammad Khatami, to normalize relations. In 2010, Obama himself scuttled a plan by Turkey and Brazil to resolve the issue. There was no knowing when the next opportunity would come.
Haroon Siddiqui covered the 1979 Iranian revolution and the hostage crisis. He usually writes Thursdays and Sundays.
- Obama assuages Netanyahu on Iran post ‘historic blunder’ remarks (indiavision.com)
- Israeli Leader Calls Iran Deal ‘Historic Mistake’ (abcnews.go.com)
- Iran welcomes nuclear deal which Israel calls ‘mistake’ (theiranproject.com)
- MK Mozes: Israeli Isolation on Iran ‘a Divine Punishment’ (israelnationalnews.com)
- Be Careful Who You Get Into Bed With (huffingtonpost.com)
- Bachmann: Israel ‘may have to save world’ from Armageddon (mobile.wnd.com)
- Iran cheers deal as Israel warns (bbc.co.uk)