ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Lifting the Siege on Iran

The deal over Iran's nuclear programme may well indicate a historic shift in the power balance in west Asia. That such an agreement was reached despite the opposition from Israel and Saudi Arabia is signifi cant. The positive implications of making this deal permanent are many but the coming months will tell us whether the United States really has turned the corner over its old shibboleth.

The Palais des Nations in Geneva, where Iranian diplomats met with representatives of the P5 (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States) + 1 (Germany), has a 46 hectare park that is home to an ostentation of peacocks. The owners of the land bequeathed it to the League of Nations (now the United Nations) as long as the international organisation maintained peacocks on the land. The current group was donated by a Japanese zoo and by the Indian mission. They have been spectators to a flurry of activity in the past few years over the question of Iran’s nuclear programme. Mayura, the killer of snakes, is certainly a hopeful mascot of the Geneva UN. On 24 November, the P5+1 signed an interim deal with Iran – the first in decades – which could draw down the tensions not only around Iran but also in the entire region, from Afghanistan to Lebanon. A snake was certainly flayed, although it is not clear which snake was killed.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is not an expressive person, but his statement after the signing was even more cautious. He urged the governments involved “to do everything possible to build on this encouraging start, creating mutual confidence and allowing continued negotiations to extend the scope of this initial agreement”. Ban Ki-moon was right to put his enthusiasm on mute. Israel had already signalled that this deal was a “historic mistake”, while the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia warned that it would conduct its own adverse policy towards Iran. Pressure from Israel, from Saudi Arabia and from the right wing in the US Congress suggested that the United States (US) would not have an easy time keeping its own allies in line on this deal. The US government’s fact sheet on the deal suggested that it “halts the progress of Iran’s nuclear program and rolls it back in key respects”, while the “overwhelming majority of the sanctions regime remains in place”. In other words, the US claimed that Iran conceded on everything and got nothing – that Iran was the snake to be corralled. In Iran, on the other hand, its lead negotiator and Foreign Minister Javed Zarif was received as a hero, saying that his country now could fully exercise the right to a full civilian nuclear programme that included the right to enrich uranium. The snake, for Iran, was the US-led policy to garrotte Iran.

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