Middle Eastern Nations See Naivety in the West
Although Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is seen by many as the most vociferous voice in opposition to the Western powers interim agreement with Iran, there are many in the region that share the Israeli viewpoint or worse, and see the pact as a precursor to a regional war.
To be sure, there are those who support the agreement, both inside Iran and throughout the Middle East. After numerous interviews with Iranians on the street, it has become clear that citizens of the Islamic Republic agree with their government that they, too, have the same “right” to nuclear power as do those countries that are already nuclear. And through the pact, Iranians can see an easing of the economic distress that resulted from sanctions and can even rest assured that the threat of military action against their country is at worst, more than six-months away; and at best, alleviated altogether.
An Iranian blogger who spoke to The Media Line on condition of anonymity because of the uncertain security situation, had kudos for President Hassan Rohani for fulfilling his post-election vow to end the nuclear crisis within one year. He expressed the hope that “the concern of the Western nations over Iran’s ultimate nuclear intentions will now be alleviated.”
Iman Foroutan, a native Iranian who serves as spokesman for the Iranian expatriate group “The New Iran” (TNI), told The Media Line that for the Iranian populace, while there are, indeed, some gains, the risks are far greater. In a statement, TNI listed among the possible downside the loss of international pressure to release political prisoners or to further the cause of human rights. In another stark prediction, the group said the agreement “virtually guarantees continued and increased brutalities against the people of Iran, increased political incarcerations, more tortures, and more executions without any fear of backlash from the Western democracies.”
Echoing many critics in the West, Foroutan expressed amazement and dismay that the pact’s drafters began with billions of dollars in eased sanctions. A criticism expressed by many, few believe it’s realistic to expect sanctions to be re-instated once the process of unwinding them has begun. A senior Israeli official told The Media Line that “sanctions cannot be applied and removed like a yo-yo. Rather, it takes immense international pressure, one-by-one. Once lifted, it would be like hell to bring it back.”
TNI makes an additional point: that the Iranian people will not benefit from the $7 billion roll-back. Is explained that, “The petrochemical, automobile and precious businesses and markets inside Iran are virtually owned and controlled by the Revolutionary Guard’s apparatus: Khamenei and his close circle of thugs.”
Whether or not the Iranian street benefits from the deal, those who reside in the Middle East have a far dimmer view of the worth of the pact than do the Western powers who cut the deal on their behalf. The oddity of Israel becoming closer to Saudi Arabia is not far-fetched when seen through the regional prism. [“An enemy of my enemy is my friend.”] The statement by the Israeli official warning that “the agreement bring us closer to Iranian domination of the Middle East; it brings more extremism and more violence to the region,” is almost verbatim the statement made by Dr. Sami Al-Farej, head of Kuwait Center for Strategic Studies.
Looking at the regional impact of the agreement, Farej told The Media Line that it upsets the balance of power in favor of Iran, the result of which will be a new arms race. He explained that because, “Both Iran and Iraq have a quantitative edge over each and every GCC nation by virtue of their geographic size, demographics, water, and other resources,
we, as a block and as individual states, must redress this imbalance by possessing a qualitative edge translated into the possession of better equipment for war and peace, better management skills and systems, better financial management of resources and societies, and so on and so forth.” This balance, he argues, set to be upset by Iran obtaining nuclear weapons, mean the Saudis, Kuwaitis and other GCC nations “must buy equivalent technologies to redress this grand strategic imbalance, thus triggering yet another regional arm race of a grander and more dangerous caliber and magnitude.”
To those who believe the Iranians will live up to the commitment and that the fear of Tehran obtaining nuclear weapons is unfounded, the agreement’s critics point to Iranian Foreign Minister Zabar informing parliament that construction at the Arak reactor will continue despite the agreement. Arak became a primary issue of the negotiations because scientists explain that a heavy water reactor, such as the one at Arak, has no purpose other than in relation to weaponry.
Al-Farej also points out that contrary to Western powers’ euphoria, another sizeable loophole remains because, “Not all sites are inspected daily and none of the engineering sites are included in the agreement.”
What is emerging is a clear difference of belief between Iran’s neighbors and the Western powers that negotiated the deal. While Tehran begins its attack on the American version of the agreement, Middle Easterners are calculating how long it will take to unwind and how much time the Islamic Republic bought with this exercise in diplomacy.