The by now legendary tweet from Iran’s Foreign Minister Zarif in which he quoted Abraham Lincoln is the Rosebud deciphering the current stalemate between the US and Iran in Vienna.
Zarif tweeted, “Mark my words; you can’t change horses in the middle of a stream.” Well, a privileged Iranian source told Asia Times “changing horses” is exactly what US President Barack Obama abruptly did – in regard to conciliating positions he had agreed upon two days earlier.
This happened this past Wednesday night, Vienna time – at the negotiating table.
Things started to change after a working cocktail party in the State Dining Room in Washington on Tuesday night, when Obama appeared “not at all” concerned about the possible implications of the deal and said the chances “were less than 50-50 at this point.”
Even before the cocktail party – on the same day of the missed July 7 deadline — the Obama administration was already on overdrive, dismissing the notion of the president signing any deal just for the sake of a “lone” foreign policy success to be heralded as his legacy.
By mid-week, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry doubled down on his previous, undiplomatic tirade of last Sunday — “the deal may go either way” — and came up with the current “we may walk away” shtick, duly reproduced to exhaustion by US corporate media.
“Changing horses” confirms everything Asia Times has previously reported from Vienna, after detailed conversations with diplomats and negotiators; as a top Iranian official told this correspondent last week, the Obama administration does not seem to have the political will — at least not yet, if ever — to really commit itself to ending, once and for all, the Wall of Mistrust against Iran.
Another Iranian official, in an on the record briefing this past Thursday, complained of a possible “major setback,” although maintaining the official Iranian line that John Kerry is “serious.” And he also confirmed what Asia Times had learned off the record — that the US, the UK and France suddenly started backtracking on key parts of the Lausanne framework.
According to the same Iranian official, with direct access to the negotiating table, “it’s not a multilateral negotiation. It looks like you’re doing five bilaterals. Every country has their red line some times.”
Tehran, on the other hand, has made its political decisions a long time ago, as Asia Times has reported. And the Iranian official came back to stressing the same point; “What is lacking is exactly the political decision that is needed on the other side.”
So should we all remix America and start singing, “I’ve been to Vienna / in a horse with no deal”?
A horse with no deal
In a week that was supposed to feature a clinched deal — and now running past three deadlines — the issue of the lifting of a 2007 UN arms embargo imposed on Iran also emerged, with US corporate media blaming Iran en masse for “new demands.”
That’s bogus. It’s easy to forget that President Rouhani formerly led nuclear negotiations with Europe from 2003 to 2005. He always tried to prevent the transfer of Iran’s nuclear file from the IAEA to the UN. It didn’t make sense — as this was a scientific/technical dossier. But Washington prevailed — leading to the increasing politicization of the IAEA.
For the Iranian negotiators, UN Security Council (UNSC) sanctions are the key; they must be abolished first and foremost because they legitimize all other Western sanctions. The easing off of all sanctions was agreed upon in the Lausanne framework. So that obviously includes the arms embargo, which is a UNSC nuclear-related sanction.
As an Iranian diplomat said this past Monday, “as far as Iran is concerned, we believe … there should not be any place for the arms embargo … There is no evidence whatsoever that the arms embargo has any relation to the nuclear issue.”
The spin machine went on overdrive anyway, blaming Russia for bringing up the issue at the negotiating table. As Asia Times has reported, the fact is BRICS members Russia and China have a coordinated position; no to the embargo. The other two P5 members, the US and the UK, are against it. And France is wavering – what with all those profits to be made by its weapons industry.
This Thursday, in Ufa – on the sidelines of the joint BRICS/SCO meeting — Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov went straight to the point; “We are calling for lifting the embargo as soon as possible and we will support the choices that Iran’s negotiators make.”
This was on the same day that President Rouhani met with President Putin as part of the SCO summit. Iran will inevitably become a SCO member as soon as UN sanctions are lifted. Whatever happens in Vienna, Iran will inevitably expand its role as a vital hub/node of Eurasia integration – from the New Silk Road(s) to the SCO.
Asia Times learned from a senior Iranian official the arms embargo is not an issue that would sink the nuclear deal. What really matters are the economic and financial sanctions. The IRGC has developed on its own a relatively sophisticated Iranian arms industry. Buying weapons from Rosoboronexport – Russia’s weapons export organization – would add to the mix. US opposition has everything to do with the influence of Israel and the House of Saud in the Beltway.
In Ufa, at the BRICS/SCO summit, Russia’s Finance Minister Anton Siluanov also minimized the impact on Russia in case sanctions on Iran are lifted. He said, “injecting new oil to the world markets could impact prices. But the price depends on the global economy at large. If there is enough demand, the impact will be minimal.”
Implementing is a bitch
Whatever happens in Vienna, the road ahead will be fraught with danger. A deal will consist of three delicate phases; adoption, operation and implementation. Vienna would yield only the main, 85-page agreement text plus the five annexes – which will then be reviewed in Tehran and Washington (now for 60 days instead of 30).
Operation means each side proceeding with agreed-upon measures – what the Iranians call a “parallel process” of dismantling parts of the nuclear program in parallel to steps towards dismantling the architecture of sanctions.
And then implementation will kick in automatically; Iran fulfills all its commitments, as verified by the IAEA, and all Western economic, banking and financial sanctions — in theory — vanish.
This is what is called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPA). It will take at least until the end of 2015 for people in Iran to start feeling at least a bit of progress in their everyday lives. Only a few days ago chief Iranian negotiator Abbas Araqchi sounded so optimistic on IRIB TV. “We have reached a consensus for the removal of financial and economic sanctions on the day of implementing the deal,” he said.
Every analyst not blinded by ideology knows that Iran’s nuclear program was never the problem for Washington. Only neo-con nut jobs believe in their own fantasy that Iran’s nuclear enrichment at 5% for its nuclear program masks a 95+% nuclear weapons program.
It doesn’t matter that the acronym fest of US intel agencies has repeatedly asserted that Iran has no nuclear weapons program. And that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei has repeatedly emphasized a nuclear bomb is anti-Islamic.
As it stands – and ultimately because of lack of political will in Washington – the deal may be backtracking to “less than 50-50,” even with a new July 13 deadline. And the whole world can see why.
The record is not good. It took over five decades for Washington to start normalizing its relations with heavily sanctioned Cuba. Washington has already alienated the overwhelming majority of 1.7 billion followers of Islam. It has lost most of 1.2 billion Indians – as India joins the SCO. It has lost 1.3 billion Chinese with the pathetic “pivot to Asia” and the non-stop South China Sea saber rattling. It has totally lost Russia, the absolute majority of Latin America and the absolute majority of the Global South.
Certainly this is not the Divide and Rule technique inherited from the faded British empire, that the Brits themselves learned from Rome in their Latin classes. This is taking everyone on at once.
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