US-Iran: The ever-spinning deal

By Pepe Escobar (Asia Times – The Roving Eye)

 Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (2nd L) shakes hands with US Secretary of State John Kerry after a statement to announce a landmark deal with Iran halting parts of its nuclear programme Photo: AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (2nd L) shakes hands with US Secretary of State John Kerry after a statement to announce a landmark deal with Iran halting parts of its nuclear programme Photo: AFP/GETTY IMAGES

The 34-year Wall of Mistrust between the US and Iran started tumbling down on Sunday at 3 am local time in Geneva. Or has it?

It is, after all, only a mutually acknowledged “first step” – a deal to start negotiating a real deal (see the full text here ) And the terms, for Iran, are harsh.

Iran will be allowed to trade again in gold, petrochemicals, car and plane parts, and will have some US$4.2 billion in oil sales unfrozen. Yet a fortune remains in permafrost – including $10 billion in European banks. And there is still $50 billion with Iran’s Asian energy clients – China, India, Japan, South Korea, Turkey – that still cannot be repatriated.

Over the next six months Iran must; stop enriching uranium above 5%; dilute its stock of 20%-enriched uranium; install no more centrifuges; refrain from fueling the heavy-water reactor in Arak; and accept a lot more International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspections (which have unearthed no evidence whatsoever uranium has been diverted to weaponization).

Predictably, the spin war unleashed the minute the deal was clinched in Geneva centers on Iran’s right to enrich uranium. US Secretary of State John Kerry said no; not implicit in the document. Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said yes, implicit in the deal and in the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) itself.

In a Voltairean best of possible worlds, we’re just at the stage of a road map for a definitive deal allowing Iran its rightful, peaceful nuclear program (enrichment included) under non-stop IAEA monitoring and far away from breakout nuclear capacity.

One of the key points of the deal is that the P5+1 (United States, Britain, France, Russia and China plus Germany) will “not impose new nuclear-related sanctions for six months, if Iran abides by its commitments under this deal, to the extent permissible within their political systems.”

Would it be then “permissible” for the US Congress – operating under Israeli and Wahhabi petrodollar remote control – to come up with even more sanctions and scotch a future deal for good? That’s a possibility. So it depends on the Obama administration’s political capital to prevent it. Then, ideally, by May 2014 we could have the building blocks for the end of the key UN/US sanctions that constitute a de facto oil and banking blockade of Iran.

Now for the hysteria brigades
Perhaps the trillion-dollar enigma of the moment is this: Has the Obama administration abandoned the notion of regime change in Tehran for good?

It may be too early to tell. A case can certainly be made of this being a “lose-lose” proposition for Tehran. If Tehran follows every single concession – as it will – and by May 2014 there are no actual major dividends, there won’t be much incentive to discuss a definite deal.

And if the hardliners in Tehran regain the upper hand and Iran restarts enriching uranium to 20% that will be branded as a deal-breaker. And yet another nasty sanctions package will follow, not to mention the full resurrection of the dogs of war. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and his team have repeatedly made it clear to US negotiators they only have a small window of opportunity before hardliners of the Revolutionary Guards variety try to revert to confrontational mode.

Immediately after the deal was signed, Rouhani once again stressed Tehran does not want and will never build a nuclear weapon; one just needs to be reminded of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei’s fatwas branding a nuclear weapon as anti-Islamic.

And to think that all this could have happened 10 years ago, in early 2003, when the Khatami administration in Tehran – via Swiss intermediation – offered to put everything on the table; the nuclear program, Hezbollah, even normalization with Israel.

Predictably, the neo-con cabal led by Dick, Rummy and Wolfie utterly rejected negotiating with a certified member of the “axis of evil” (as in George W Bush’s 2002 State of the Union address); the clueless neo-cons were entertaining wet dreams of snuffing out Saddam Hussein and then embarking on the next adventure, “real men go to Tehran”-style. Kerry couldn’t help but invoke it in Geneva to add polish to what’s being spun as the major foreign policy victory of two Obama administrations.

Predictably, the very restricted circle of those against even the idea of Geneva completely freaked out. That starts with neo-cons and assorted Republicans who have backed every demented horse in recent geopolitical history, from the embryo of al-Qaeda in 1980s Afghanistan to the Contras in Nicaragua, from the Mujahideen-e-Khalq “exiled” in Iraq to Bandar Bush’s goons let loose in Syria.

In the Wahhabi petrodollar front, the House of Saud’s King Abdullah had already met in extreme urgency with self-deposed emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani and Kuwait’s Sheikh Sabah in Riyadh on the eve of the breakthrough in Geneva.

And then there’s that sociopath posing as Israeli Prime Minister, Bibi Netanyahu. Imagine his reaction when he read those finally unfrozen reports about months of secret US-Iranian negotiations in Oman. [1] The bottom line: Bibi was totally frozen out of the New Great Game in Eurasia by the Obama administration.

In the US, dangerous nut jobs are bound to crank up the hysteria, calling for Israel to bomb Iran. [2] As if a nuclear-armed-to-the-teeth nation – which never signed the NPT and does not allow IAEA inspections – could attack a non-nuclear nation, which has signed the NPT and allows a rash of intrusive inspections. That will make it even more explicit to the whole planet that the rogue state here is Israel.

Vigilance, though, remains essential. Desperate, isolated Likudniks will try anything to derail Geneva, including a string of false flags.

Pivot to Persia or bust
Now for the grown-ups. In terms of Russian foreign policy, it’s now a string of victories. Syria. Ukraine. And now Iran. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is a man who can do no wrong, especially in the developing world, as the absolute majority of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) supports Iran’s legitimate nuclear rights.

Russia and also China (in the usual, silent but imposing background) consider a strong Iranian economy – as well as a stable Syria – matters of supreme self-interest. Both abhor the possibility of Bandar Bush’s goons spreading out from Syria towards the Caucasus and even Xinjiang. Both want an Iran normalized with the West as a crucial stabilizing factor in Southwest Asia. The question is whether the Western, financial Masters of the Universe will allow a sovereign, independent Iran in the same league of Russia and China. That would only solidify yet a new Asian integration victory in the New Great Game in Eurasia.

The real test starts now. It should always be stressed that a practically full Western blockade of Iran – financial and in oil sales – is still in effect. Tehran is still confined to export only 1 million barrels of oil a day. Yet the temptation may be great to sideline cynicism and bet on the Obama administration realizing that everything of consequence in Southwest Asia revolves around Iran. And once again I’ll go for broke; there can’t possibly be a pivoting to Asia without a pivot to Persia.

1. U.S., Iran held secret talks on march to nuclear deal, Reuters, November 24, 2013.
2. Abject Surrender by the United States, Weekly Standard, November 24, 2013.

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge (Nimble Books, 2007), and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

He may be reached at

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