Iran agreement — keep the peace momentum going

THE SIX nations involved in the Geneva negotiations over the future of Iran’s nuclear power programme last Sunday at four o’clock in the morning finally reached a deal acceptable to both Iran and the United States. Both sides had to move a long way from their original positions but the deal has generally been hailed as a victory for peaceful negotiation over the prospect of yet another bloody imperialist war against the people of the Middle East.

And it is a deal that could not have been reached without the presence of Russia and China at the negotiating table to counter-balance the aggressive stance of the United States — further evidence that the US goal of global hegemony is slipping further and further away. The six powers involved in the negotiations — the United States, France, Britain, Russia, China and Germany — all agree that the agreement was a major achievement in the interests of international peace.

Most credit for the deal goes to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and the newly elected Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

Under the agreement Iran will stop enriching uranium beyond five per cent and “neutralise” its stockpile of uranium enriched beyond this point. Iran will also give greater access to inspectors including daily access at Natanz and Fordo — two of Iran’s key nuclear sites. There will be no further development of the Arak plant which it is believed could produce plutonium

In return, there will be no new nuclear-related sanctions for six months if Iran sticks by the accord. Iran will also receive sanctions relief worth about $7 billion (£4.3 billion) on sectors including precious metals. This means that £4.3 billion (out of over £100 billion) of Iran’s own money, stored and frozen in foreign bank accounts, will be made available to that country.

It’s not much but it will alleviate to some extent the worst effects of the sanctions, which leave the Iranian people impoverished because of the sky-high price of imported goods.

The agreement is only temporary. In six months’ time the six nations will gather again in Geneva to review the situation and decide either to continue further along the path to peace or to retreat.

Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov described the peace deal as a “win-win” situation but the deal has its opponents. Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu has described it as “a historic mistake” and is furious. But Israel now finds itself totally isolated on this issue.

And within the United States the right-wing press has been denouncing the deal as a total sell-out. In a year’s time the US will again be embroiled in the run-up to a presidential election and Obama’s popularity is currently at an all-time low. What chance will the agreement have under a change of government?

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea suffered a total reversal of US policy under very similar circumstances — but has survived and come out stronger for it, with its own independent nuclear programme, including nuclear weapons. The next US president should be reminded of this if they think about reneging on the deal.

The role of Russia and China — and the world’s peace movement — will be crucial to keep up the momentum, which started with the historic vote in the British House of Commons in September not to go to war with Syria, towards peace and negotiation and away from crude jingoistic militarism.