teleSUR, 11 July 2015 **** Front Page

Will the US-led Effort to Punish Iran End?

By Johannes Hautaviita

The P5+1 group of nations and Iran have been working on a deal which will restrict Iran's nuclear programme in exchange for sanctions relief.

A recent report by a New York-based human rights group underlines the positive consequences for the Iranian society as a whole were the crippling sanctions and international isolation to be reversed.

The negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 on the Iran nuclear issue are still ongoing. The original June 30 deadline was extended, and the coming days will tell whether a final agreement will be reached.

According to news reports, the prospects for a deal are good. The most difficult issue still being discussed in Vienna relate to the lifting of sanctions. While the signing of a nuclear agreement may not lead to normalization of relations between the US and Iran, as has been indicated by the Obama administration, it would still be a very positive and welcome development for several reasons.

From the point of view of nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament, the Iran nuclear crisis is a red herring. Although Western politicians and media outlets continuously make false statements about Iran's nuclear weapons ambitions, there is no evidence of Iranian weaponization. One recent example of such a misleading statement was made by US Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. She noted  that, “I so hope we are able to get a deal next week that puts the lid on Iran's nuclear weapons program”. No matter that neither US intelligence or the International Atomic Energy Agency have evidence of such a program.

The major impediment for ridding the Middle East of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) is not Iran, because it has no weapons of mass destruction. The central issue is Israel's refusal to give up its regional nuclear weapons monopoly – a position supported by NATO-members, such as Canada, the UK and the US.

But not only is the Iran nuclear crisis a distraction from comprehensive nonproliferation initiatives. The sanctions against Iran have had a devastating effect on Iranian economy and society, severely worsening the human rights situation in the country. The sanctions, in particular since 2012, arguably amount to collective punishment of the Iranian population.

In June 2012, The New York Times reported, that “The round of penalties that come into full effect on Sunday , some historians say, represent one of the boldest uses of oil sanctions as a tool of coercion since the United States cut off oil exports to Japan in 1940.” And  in January 2013, US officials, quoted in the Washington Post, stated that a recent set of sanctions were “designed to systematically attack and undercut Iran's major financial pillars and threaten the country with economic collapse.”

US hostility towards Iran has long historical roots. The CIA and MI6 orchestrated the overthrow of Iran's government in 1953. The nationalist government was replaced by the pro-Western monarch Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, who ruled until he was overthrown by a popular revolution in 1979. The loss of this highly valued ally was a serious political defeat for the US. In his memoirs, Henry Kissinger wrote, that for the US the “shah was the rarest of leaders, an unconditional ally.”

The use of sanctions against Iran go back to the post-1979 years. The US also supported Saddam Hussein's aggression against Iran in the 1980s. Hundreds of thousands of Iranians were killed during the war. Hussein even used chemical weapons against Iranian soldiers and civilians, with direct US support.

Recently, the  International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran released a report outlining the attitudes of Iranian civil society towards the ongoing nuclear talks between Iran and the P5+1. The findings in the report lend unequivocal support for the pursuit of a nuclear agreement, and furthermore, argues that the signing of such an agreement is a prerequisite for democratic and human rights reforms inside Iran.

According to the study High Hopes, Tempered Expectations – Views From Iran on the Nuclear Negotiations, “All of the respondents were particularly emphatic that a failure to reach a negotiated settlement to the nuclear conflict—and thus a continuation of sanctions and Iran's international isolation—would be catastrophic for Iranian society.” The respondents feared that a failure of the nuclear talks would lead to further restriction of their cultural and political freedoms and deterioration of the already dire economic situation. Another serious concern was the increasing threat of war, if no agreement is reached.

 

The archive: Johannes Hautaviita, Iran, Middle East, United States

 

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