Change the Iran policy now

The First Conference on ”World Against Violence and Extremism” is inaugurated here in Tehran this morning by President Rouhani. His idea was endorsed unanimously by the UN General Assembly last year. This PressInfo was written before I came to Iran. 

The last round of negotiations between Iran and the Five Permanent Members of the UN Security Council + Germany about the future possibility that Iran would acquire nuclear weapons should have resulted in no agreement but a 7 months postponement. It is a waste of everybody’s time in one of the most urgent issues on the international agenda.

An a-symmetric conflict

Here are 5 countries bristling with thousands of nuclear weapons themselves and planning to spend trillions of dollars on more and more sophisticated nukes – unanimous in telling a country that does not have nukes to not acquire them: ”What we can’t live without they shall never have”.

Everybody knows but conveniently omit mention of the fact that Israel is a nuclear weapons power over 50 years with at least 200 nukes in contravention of UN resolutions that the whole region shall be free from such weapons. And it has not signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

158761542In rough terms, Iran’s military expenditures is 2-3% of the United States’; with a population ten times that of Israel it spends about the same, and 4% of its GDP where Israel spends 6.

Israel is number 1 on the global militarization index, the U.S. 31 and Iran 32.

It’s the U.S.and Israel that have threatened Iran with bombing, not the other way around and former president Ahmedinejad didn’t said that the state or people of Israel should be destroyed – the real meaning lost in deliberate misinterpretation and repeated by people who do propaganda or don’t check sources.

Add to that the extremely well-informed U.S. historian and investigative journalist Gareth Porter has devoted years of his life to document that the whole thing is a set-up, that Western intelligence services have known this for at least 10 years and the main ”proof” is dubious documents. See Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare.

It should be obvious that Iran is being threatened and punished for something it is has not done. Sanctions take a heavy toll on its people. Where in international or national laws is that an acceptable?

Address the lack of trust and don’t turn blind on technology

The whole process is cast in technological issues and number of centrifuges – which btw has only risen the longer these negotiations have been on.

But the real problem is that the parties don’t trust each other – and instead of talking about that, they talk for years about centrifuges. And get nowhere.

If the technical aspects of possible acquisition of nukes were the problem there would be quite a few countries to deal with including Brazil and Germany. But they are trusted more than Iran.

And btw one could trust a nuclear Iran more than other nuclear powers because in Iran they at least don’t drink – a problem that exists in the extreme in nuclear command centres in both the U.S. and Russia.

If the issue for the West is Israel’s security then negotiate – with a neutral mediator, not the U.S. of course – a non-aggression agreement between Iran and Israel. The process towards that may itself be confidence-promoting.

Dialogue about the relations between the parties

And address history, e.g. the 1953 coup d’etat by CIA and its colleagues in London against the first democratically elected leader Dr. Mossadegh and the Iranian revolution against the Western back super-militarist white-revolutionary Shah; the help to Saddam Hussein in starting the war on Iran and the use of chemical weapons on Iran; the shooting down of an Iran passenger plane etc – and talk open about what in Iran’s policies that annoys the West, e.g. Hezbollah.

Iran insists to be treated with respect and as a sovereign state. But that obviously comes with a price: about 35 years of harassment, bombing threats, sanctions, derogative words, and more.

Infographics on sanctions on Iran. Click to enlarge.
Infographics on sanctions on Iran. Click to enlarge.

Stop the stupid sanctions

Sanctions – the eternal Western tool together with bombing, bombing threat and intervention. Unfortunately, they have only negative consequences also in the case of Iran: humiliating a proud civilisation, hitting the wrong innocent civilians, causing the middle class to either fall down into a new proletariat or move up into an outrageously rich upper class and strengthening the hardliners on all sides who are the last to make a deal and want co-operation because they profit from the ever expanding black economy that is an unavoidable consequence of all sanctions.

The U.S. blew it at the latest round of negotiations by arguing that sanctions could only be lifted little by little – to ensure that Iran would abide by a deal. Thus: Sanctions for ever – something Iran cannot possibly accept.

Again, the issue is trust – and unless that is addressed, no deal is going to happen – and if there is one, if won’t be good from any perspective – because there is no mutual trust.

How to build trust instead 

One idea would be to have a truth and reconciliation commission with a focus on grievances of the U.S. on Iran and of Iran on the U.S. – under the auspices of the UN.

Here are decades of mutual mistrust, anger and disappointments – all something the present leadership on both sides could deal with quite easily since the major issues happened before they themselves took power.

If trust were built, it could not be difficult to make a deal. The West and Iran basically understands each other well and there is no anti-Western feelings per se in Iran. On the contrary – as any visitor has experienced.

Use carrots not sticks

If Iran and USA will reach an agreement it will help: Iranian people, situation on Middle East and also to the States.
If Iran and USA will reach an agreement it will help: Iranian people, situation on Middle East and also to the States.

The West should use carrots instead of only sticks: Help Iran to solve it energy problems – alternative energy would be great in a country full of sun and wind. Help it clean its air – future Western tourists to this great civilisation would love to visit a less polluted and noisy Tehran. Help Iranians young, students, artists – amazing creativity everywhere – to interact much more with the world. All as part of an agreement that Iran is not going to join the nuclear club.

And begin serious negotiations with Israel to scrap its nukes.

Iran is an immensely resourceful country. There can be no stability of peace in the Middle East without its participation.

Iran – the Switzerland of the Middle East?

Iran could become the Switzerland of the Middle East, a meeting place among cultures. Contrary to most, Iran has not invaded anybody for more than 250 years. It’s as different in this region as Switzerland in its. Iran could continue its Dialogue of Civilizations. And it would then liberalise and open up with trust too.

In reality everybody has something to win. If only people – particularly the US, EU and NATO – could change their perspective and stop their bullying.

The next seven month will must see such a change or everybody lose and Iran turn away from its admiration for and orientation to the West.

The West should be grateful to Iran for not having slammed the door at these last negotiations. Seven more months is a waste of precious time on all sides. It should be used to implement a new policy and reach an obvious win-win solution.

Dr. Jan Oberg is the Director of Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research

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