Though a final deal won’t be sealed until later this year, the framework agreement announced in Lausanne, Switzerland on Thursday between Iran and the P5+1 nations is having reverberations across the world—offering hope of rapprochement, peace, and better days ahead for those who support it and heckles and frowns from those who appear to think that a continued stalemate and endless sanctions, or possibly war, are the better path.
As Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council, writes in an op-ed at The National Interest on Friday morning: “Peace won. War lost. It’s as simple as that.”
“Make no mistake,” Parsie continued, “the framework agreement that was announced yesterday is nothing short of historic. A cycle of escalation has been broken – for the first time, Iran’s nuclear program will roll back, as will the sanctions Iran has been subjected too.”
As regular Iranians were reportedly celebrating in the streets and in their homes and President Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry, and the foreign ministers of the other nations were receiving widespread praise for the diplomatic accomplishment, hawkish forces were quickly—and unsurprisingly—making public their objections to the deal.
In a phone call with Obama following the announcement of the agreement, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu let it be known he continues to be “vehemently opposed” to any deal with Iran.
“This deal would legitimize Iran’s nuclear program, bolster Iran’s economy and increase Iran’s aggression and terror throughout the Middle East and beyond,” Netanyahu said later in a statement. “It would increase the risks of nuclear proliferation in the region and the risks of a horrific war.” Notably, Israel (though it remains undeclared) is the only country in the Middle East thought to have a nuclear weapons arsenal.
Meanwhile, before the ink was dry on the framework agreement (read the text of the document here), Republican Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, who chairs the Foreign Relations Committee, said the panel will vote on a measure he has proposed which would stipulate congressional approval of any deal with Iran over its nuclear program. Such a move has long been seen as a way to sabotage the diplomatic effort, but Corker insisted he would call for a vote as soon as members return from Easter recess.
Called the ‘The Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015,’ the legislation would require any final agreement with Iran to be submitted to Congress for a 60-day review period before congressionally-mandated sanctions on Iran could be waived or suspended by the president.
Corker’s legislation has support not only from his Republican colleagues, but also from a powerful array of hawkish Democrats, including: Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Sen. Joe Donnelly (D- Indiana), Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Col.), Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), and Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY).
While foreign policy experts from around the world praised the deal—with many expressing surprise by just how much Iran was willing to offer in exchange for sanctions relief and an end to economic isolation—House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) called the deal that would provide a reduction of Iran’s nuclear capacity and strict monitoring of its atomic activities an “alarming” development.
However, according to Scott Ritter, a former U.S. Marine and UN weapons inspector, the predictable opposition to the deal with Tehran is coming from the very same people who led the U.S. people into war with Iraq in 2003.
“The high-profile criticism coming from Israel and Congressional Republicans,” Ritterwrites, “channel the most extreme examples of the last weapons of mass destruction (WMD) witch-hunt — involving Iraq — which culminated in a war that killed thousands, cost trillions, and destabilized and further radicalized a region of the world essential to international prosperity. Armed with the knowledge that the case against Iraq’s WMD was, at best illusory and, at worst, a complete fabrication, Americans should be hesitant about accepting at face value claims of Iranian nuclear malfeasance that are unsustained by fact and are at odds with history.”
And for Phyllis Bennis, director of the New Internationalism Project at the Institute for Policy Studies, the agreement reached this week should be seen as a “huge victory for diplomacy over war.”
Offering her analysis on Foreign Policy In Focus, Bennis explained that while both sides gave much during the negotiations, it’s clear that Tehran made that largest concessions. She writes:
Tehran accepted that U.S. and EU sanctions will not be lifted until after the UN’s watchdog agency verifies that Iran has fully implemented its new nuclear obligations — which could be years down the line. It agreed to severe cuts in its nuclear infrastructure, including the reduction of its current 19,000 centrifuges for enriching uranium to just over 6,000.
Tehran also consented to rebuild its heavy water reactor at Arak so that it will have no reprocessing capacity and thus cannot produce plutonium. Its spent fuel will be exported. The Fordow nuclear plant, moreover, will be turned into a technology research center without fissile material. And crucially, the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency will be allowed to conduct unannounced inspections.
In return, the United States and its partners — the UK, France, Germany, Russia, and China — agreed that the UN resolution imposing international sanctions on Iran would be replaced by a new resolution that would end those sanctions but maintain some restrictions.
Bennis was hardly alone in concluding that what was achieved in Switzerland is groundbreaking and goes well beyond what was previously thought possible.
“I’m wildly impressed by it,” Jacqueline Shire, a former member of the UN Panel of Experts on Iran, told Middle East Eye. “This is Iran saying it is opening the doors and lifting its hood, letting people look inside. But then Iran gets to walk away with dignity intact because they keep an enrichment program, 6,000 centrifuges is nothing to sneeze at.”
When it comes to those opposing the deal, Bennis urges for the “partisan posturing of right-wing militarists and neoconservative ideologues” to be ignored so that those who want to see a more peaceful and stable Middle East can be allowed to let the fruits of diplomacy grow. If the framework agreement can hold—and ultimately a final deal completed—she writes, the stage would be set “for an entirely new set of diplomatic relationships and alliances in the Middle East.”
As Ritter concludes, “When it comes to Iran and its nuclear program, the world would do well to take a different path than that chosen for Iraq, and let inspections, not bombs, do the work of disarmament.”
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