3 readings on the Iran nuclear deal and the Palestinians

Advertisement from the 1970s by American nuclear-power companies touting Iran’s nuclear program. (Wikipedia)

Here are two pieces I found very helpful in understanding the Iran nuclear agreement, and a third I contributed to focusing on its implications for Palestinians.

The agreement signed between the so-called P5+1 (the US, UK, France, China, Russia and Germany) and Iran is formally called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

It puts Iran’s nuclear energy program under even stricter supervision than is already in place under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, in exchange for lifting international sanctions.

The ostensible goal is to prevent Iran’s nuclear energy program from being diverted into a weapons program.

(1) False history lessons

Since the final agreement was signed in June, Israel and its US lobby have escalated their campaign to undermine it, putting out a great deal of outlandish and lurid propaganda.

One of the main claims is that past failures in preventing nuclear proliferation in India, Pakistan and North Korea serve as warnings that this deal too will fail.

In the venerable Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Leonard Weiss, a lead Senate staffer on the Nuclear Nonproliferation Act of 1978, and now a visiting scholar at Stanford University, debunks this argument as put forward by David Harris, executive director of leading Israel lobby group the American Jewish Committee.

Weiss’ article, “What do past nonproliferation failures say about the Iran nuclear agreement?” argues that “Harris’s attempt to view the Iran agreement through the lens of past nonproliferation failures proceeds from some fundamental misunderstandings or distortions of the history of those failures. Rather than repeating the conditions for failure, the Iran agreement reflects some lessons learned from them.”

Weiss points out that Harris mysteriously – but not surprisingly – leaves out Israel as a case of failed nonproliferation.

In that case, he notes, Israel used deception to defeat half-hearted attempts by the Kennedy administration to block its path to nuclear weapons.

Since Nixon, every US president, including Barack Obama, has been willing to tolerate Israeli nuclear weapons – currently estimated at between 80-200 warheads.

In an ironic twist, Weiss points out that before the Iranian revolution, the Shah embarked on a secret nuclear weapons program.

“The [US] nuclear industry had even taken out ads touting the Shah’s support for nuclear power,” Weiss writes, “and there is no record of Israeli opposition to such an arrangement, despite the publicly expressed desire by the Shah to follow the construction of reactors with a reprocessing capability that would have allowed the production of plutonium from reactor spent fuel.”

(2) Liberal misconceptions

Even liberal supporters of the Iran deal, lobbying hard to help Obama get it through Congress, are spreading misinformation, argues independent analyst Nima Shirazi in “Slaughtering the Truth and the False Choice of War on Iran.”

“For instance,” Shirazi writes, “the constant claim that the agreement ‘prevents Iran from building a nuclear weapon’ is a facile talking point that assumes an Iranian drive for a bomb that has never actually existed.”

An equally dangerous and false talking point, notably disseminated by Obama himself, is that the only alternative is war.

Shirazi cites a 2013 University of Maryland study that found that “media coverage about Iran’s nuclear program is plagued with error, often decontextualized, and hews strongly to official American and Israeli government narratives.”

On the rare occasion that the media addressed “Iranian nuclear intentions and capabilities, it did so in a manner that lacked precision, was inconsistent over time, and failed to provide adequate sourcing and context for claims. This led to an inaccurate picture of the choices facing policy makers.”

“One of the most striking examples of this egregious practice is a recent opinion piece by Anne-Marie Slaughter in USA Today,” Shirazi states.

Slaughter’s sloppiness and error, which Shirazi unpicks meticulously, is significant. “She’s taught at elite universities, including Harvard and Princeton, served for two years as Hillary Clinton’s director of policy planning in the US State Department and currently heads the New America Foundation, an influential center-left think tank in Washington, DC,” Shirazi points out.

“If her former boss becomes the next commander-in-chief, Slaughter will almost certainly return to a high-powered position in government,” he warns. “Let’s hope she gets her facts straight before then.”

(3) The Iran deal and the Palestinians

“Much of the discussion around the nuclear agreement between Iran and the P5+1 (the five permanent member states of the [United Nations] Security Council plus Germany) has centered on US relations with Israel. What of US relations with Palestine insofar as these are distinct from US-Israeli relations? How will they be impacted by the deal, if at all?”

This is the introduction to a roundtable Q&A put together by the Palestinian think tank Al-Shabaka.

The three questions put to me and two other analysts, Diana Buttu and Mouin Rabbani, are:

  • In what ways are US-Palestinian relations distinct from US-Israeli relations and/or US engagement in the now moribund peace process?

  • What impact do you expect the Iran deal to have on US-Palestinian relations per se?

  • How should the Palestinians – the “leadership” and Palestinian civil society – position themselves to take advantage of this agreement and, at a minimum, to ensure that Palestinian rights are not eroded?

Our answers converge in one key respect: that US relations with the official Palestinian “leadership” are mediated through its relationship with Israel, so little is likely to change for the better.

Here’s my assessment of how the politics of passing the Iran deal in the US – which involves extra pandering to Israel – has hurt Palestinians, even though the deal itself may be a significant achievement:

If the Iranians see in the deal a way to avoid the type of ideologically and religiously driven US war that destroyed Iraq and sowed catastrophe across the region, then they alone can judge the merits of the deal for them. The lifting of sanctions imposed by Obama and America’s European vassals, with the support of Israel, may relieve the suffering inflicted on the poorest Iranians. There is no doubt however that some Iranian elites see the end of sanctions as an opportunity to open the country to foreign capital, sell off public assets and fully insert Iran into global neoliberalism.

As for US-Palestinian relations, the impact it has already had is that President Obama has deepened US involvement in and support for Israeli crimes as a form of compensation to Israel and its lobby for mildly defying them on the Iran deal. Israel can and will live with the Iran deal, but has been adept at extorting the US administration to give it even more in terms of aid and weaponry. Barack Obama justly boasts that no administration has been more generous to Israel than his. I expect that before he leaves office he will sign a deal giving Israel even more money over the next 10 years. As a direct consequence of Obama’s actions, more Palestinians will die.

Read the rest here.

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Agreement favors considerably the imperialists. View it more as a publicity stunt by the imperialists to convince the opposition in Iran that it favors Iran.

As to the Hell Aviv racist regime supposed nuclear program. One questions how the regime put in place only since 1948, occupying an area roughly the size of the state of New Jersey with a population of under ten million, is able to have built two hundred such devices?

It had/has neither the resources or finances for such an undertaking. One would not at all be surprised that such weapons come directly from US armories. That is perhaps why it is not open to NPT monitoring.

Ali Abunimah

Ali Abunimah's picture

Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine, now out from Haymarket Books.

Also wrote One Country: A Bold-Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. Opinions are mine alone.