THE BOMB THAT DID NOT DETONATE
Editorial 4-11 April 2015
By Edmond Y. Azadian
Iran’s nuclear program that was in process to develop that country’s
first bomb had created an explosive situation throughout the Middle
East and in many ways it impacted relations in the region. The
standoff between Iran and Israel defined not only regional politics
but also international relations. Iran’s bombastic leaders in the
past only provided ammunition to Israel’s maximalists to justify a
pre-emptive strike and draw reluctant leadership in Washington into
the ensuing conflict.
Two years of intense negotiations between the Big Six (US, Russia,
China, Germany, France and Britain) and Iran finally yielded some
positive results, in Lausanne, Switzerland. Iran agreed to scale
back its nuclear program for five to 10 years and accept intrusive
international inspections. In return, the US and the international
community promised to lift the sanctions which have crippled Iran’s
With the prospects of a better life, there is elation in Tehran’s
streets, but Iranian hardliners as well as President Obama’s domestic
opponents, not to say anything about Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu, all oppose the deal.
Under the accord, which will be finalized before June 30, Iran has
agreed to reduce the number of operating centrifuges by two-thirds,
to 5,600 and to cut its current stockpile of low-enriched uranium
from 10,000 kilograms to 300, for 15 years.
While President Obama hailed the agreement as “once-in-a-lifetime
opportunity” to curb the spread of nuclear weapons in a dangerous
region, Israel’s premier responded that “not a single centrifuge is
destroyed” in his state of the union speech, “not a single nuclear
facility is shut down, including the underground facilities that they
have built illicitly. Thousands of centrifuges will keep spinning,
enriching uranium. That is a very bad deal.”
What Mr. Netanyahu intended to say but didn’t was completed by George
W. Bush’s former ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton,
who had bullied and insulted every decent diplomat at the UN forum
during his contentious tenure there. In an op-ed in the New York Times,
Bolton dispensed his own remedy to Iran’s nuclear problem: he plainly
advocated bombing Iran, regardless of the consequences, completely
ignoring the fact that that kind of neocon might-first policy has
turned the Middle East into a blood bath without an end in sight.
Mr. Netanyahu’s speech at the US Congress was an affront to President
Obama, with the implication that he has America’s legislative body
in his pocket and he can cripple the executive’s actions anytime he
wishes. Mr. Netanyahu’s meddling in the US domestic politics turned
the Iran deal into a partisan issue, pitting the Republicans against
the Democrats. Forty seven Republican Senators wrote a threatening
letter to Iran’s leadership, undercutting the authority of President
Obama. While his trip abroad right before the election might have
secured Mr. Netanyahu another term at the helm of his country with
the support of the ultra-right, his prestige around the world as well
as with the moderate and liberal Israelis plummeted.
Mr. Obama himself could not have pursued an independent policy
vis-a-vis the maximalist leader of Israel, had it not been for the
divisions Mr. Netanyahu had created within the Jewish community itself.
Indeed, a powerful Jewish lobbying firm, the J Street Group, privately
and publicly tried to block Mr. Netanyahu’s speech at the Congress,
telling him that taking the US public for granted may engender a
backlash against Israel. Although J Street could not stop the Israeli
prime minister’s march on Capitol Hill, at least it showed some
solidarity with Mr. Obama in his squaring off with the Israeli leader.
Despite Mr. Obama’s conciliatory call to the Israeli prime minister,
the latter has been continuing his vitriolic attack on the Iran deal.
Mr. Netanyahu has conceded, deep down, that the deal enjoys the
consensus of the international community, but his eyes are already
behind that deal.
The next political step is on the Palestinian issue. After his
flip-flop on the two-state solution, the Israeli leader will face
once more the demands of the international community. Indeed, France
will soon place on the UN Security Council agenda the issue of
Palestinian statehood. Mr. Netanyahu will extract a price from the
Obama administration for toning down his rhetoric on the Iran deal;
he will expect the Obama administration to use its veto power to
shoot down the French proposal.
Mr. Obama has invited prominent journalist Thomas L. Friedman to
the White House to explain to him the Obama doctrine. Mr. Friedman
is a deft and suave salesman of Israeli policies. He is a smooth,
authoritative and convincing columnist and under the pretense of
criticizing the excesses of the Israeli political leadership, he can
dexterously defend them and justify their policies.
According to Mr. Friedman’s article in the New York Times, Mr. Obama
perceives the Iran deal within the context of his world vision. The
US does not need to convince anyone that it is the strongest power on
earth. Based on that premise, President Obama has relaxed relations
with Burma, Cuba and now with Iran. We may also add his reluctance
to jump into the Syrian melee or participating (directly) in the
aggression against Libya. That would allow the parties under sanctions
to cut deals with the US and abide by the terms, recognizing full
well the consequences of the alternative.
The Obama doctrine has contributed to the relaxation of tensions in
many regions, Russia remains one sore point where it seems, entrenched
neocons and Cold War hawks have still their tight grip.
US and Iran pursue a very intricate policy with each other; while
negotiating a major nuclear deal for a peaceful region, the US and Iran
were fighting each other on the opposing sides in Syria, supporting
opposing proxies in Yemen (Tehran bankrolling Houthi rebels, the US
supporting Saudi airstrikes) and in Iraq war tacitly cooperative to
defeat the ISIS in Tikrit.
Once the nuclear deal is sealed in June, Iran will emerge as a major
power in the Middle East, overshadowing Saudi Arabia and its perennial
rival, Turkey. That is why Ankara has been criticizing Tehran and
has joined deposed Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi in its
Armenia and Iran have been on friendly terms but they have not
utilized the full potential of their cooperation because Iran was
under sanctions and considered a pariah nation. Although Washington
understood Armenia’s limited options in dealing with Iran, their
cooperation remained suspect in the eyes of American leaders.
Should the present deal prove to be a workable solution, Iran may
interact with regional and major powers in resolving many other
intractable issues. One such issue may be Azerbaijan’s pretensions
on Northern Iranian territory.
Armenia welcomed the framework agreement on Iran’s nuclear program.
The deal “gives an opportunity to reach a comprehensive settlement,”
said Armenia’s Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandian. “The sanctions have
inhibited our relations with Iran,” echoed Deputy Foreign Minister
According to government data, last year the volume of trade between
the two countries was $291 million, which amounted to only 5 percent
of Armenia’s total foreign trade.
The sanctions have put on hold the implementation of Armenian-Iranian
energy projects, such as the $350-million construction of a major
hydroelectric plant on the Arax River. The two countries also plan
to build a high-voltage transmission line that will enable Armenia to
export more electricity to Iran and import larger volumes of Iranian
natural gas. Tourism also has a great potential, as Armenia being
an open society will offer more attractive alternatives to Iranian
Above all, Iran’s political rehabilitation will tame Turkey’s
pan-Turkic ambitions in the region and will act as a balancing bulwark
in Caucasian politics.
Israel and the US are more worried about the threat of an Iranian
nuclear bomb. But imagine what the fallout would be for Armenia and
in the entire region if Mr. Netanyahu had the opportunity for his
“pre-emptive strike” or trigger-happy John Bolton and his ilk were
in power in Washington.
Fortunately the Iranian bomb was not manufactured and Mr. Bolton’s
bomb did not detonate and therefore the region can enjoy the benefits
of a peaceful prospect.