23 January 2014

Iran: flexing the muscle after the first nuclear deal?

In a relatively rare show of tolerance, CNN allowed an opinion piece Syria shows peril of Iran's growing power, of course with the usual "The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Frida Ghitis" proviso.

The article is not inspiring as far as Syria's future prospects of peace are concerned, and Iran's role in the bloodbath is clear to the author, as it is clear to everyone. Of course, the curious fact that Iranian religious fanatics seem to support the side of a Baathist dictator who is fighting, between other warring factions, a great number of religious fanatics of another brand, is somewhat ironic. As is the fact that Washington seems to be accepting the state of unending killing there, having made a kind of silent peace with the fact that Iran is largely dictating the turn of events.

It has become a proxy war for regional rivalries, with Sunni states, including Saudi Arabia and Qatar, supporting the opposition, and Iran, along with Hezbollah, standing steadfastly with al-Assad by providing him with manpower, ammunition and intelligence.

Iran has not only saved al-Assad, it has changed the character of the fight.

It has turned it into a much more dangerous regional conflict, all but eliminating the prospects for a positive outcome anytime soon and adding to the indescribable suffering of the Syrian people.
But then Ms Ghitis asks another question:
Where do Iran's nuclear program and the agreement with world powers fit into all this?

The interim deal was meant to freeze the nuclear program in place for six months while a final agreement is negotiated. But the announcement of the deal late last year immediately transformed the landscape. In the eyes of Arab states, the U.S. was taking the first steps towards capitulating before Iran's aspirations. The Iranian regime's goal is to spread its version of Islamic revolution and to make Iran the most powerful country in the region.
And Iran, after signing the interim deal, feels quite well: not as a party that was overwhelmed by the pressure applied to it by the powers to be, but actually as a winner of that first battle.
As if to reinforce that point, Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Abbas Araghchi, told Iranian television that if Tehran decided to resume enrichment to its previous levels, it could do it in 24 hours. The White House dismissed the statement as meant for domestic consumption. But the fact is that Iran is not dismantling its centrifuges. It is just unplugging them.
Moreover, Iran is continuing its posturing as an emerging military power.
Iran’s navy has dispatched warships on a mission to the Atlantic Ocean for the first time in history, an Iranian news agency said.

The flotilla, consisting of a Khark logistic and helicopter-carrier warship and Sabalan destroyer, could journey as much as 25,000 nautical kilometers in the next three months, Fars News reported Tuesday.
Not that we should be stunned by this display of naval might, but the intention of act is clear.

Ms Ghitis ends the article with a stark warning:
A stronger Iran would deepen the divisions separating Sunnis and Shiites, Arabs and Persians, Saudis and Iranians, Palestinians and Israelis, making them all but impossible to bridge. The region would become a greater threat to itself and the world.

The talks in Switzerland will now start. But the fighting, torture and killing in Syria will continue, even as former war crimes prosecutors say al-Assad is viciously slaughtering his own people.

In the end, much of the Middle East's future will depend on whether negotiators can find a way to stop Iran from advancing its power to the point where it becomes essentially invulnerable. Otherwise, the region will become an even more dangerous and desperate place, as we see today in Syria.
As it will. As it most certainly will, what with White House rudderless international politics.

And as for the near future: I wonder what will be the next stage agreement on Iranian nuclear development? Will the wise men of 5+1 demand that Iranians cover their centrifuges by plastic sheets to ensure peace forever?

P.S. From the ticker tape: Iran: We did not agree to dismantle anything

Read more: Iran: We did not agree to dismantle anything:
Iran’s foreign minister accused the US of mischaracterizing the terms of an interim nuclear deal that went into effect on Monday. “We did not agree to dismantle anything,” Mohammad Javad Zarif told CNN in an interview on Wednesday, charging that the Obama administration had created a false impression in the language it used to describe the six-month agreement.
Somebody has been had, and its' not the Ayatollahs, I am afraid...