Some events become edged in people’s lives, leaving positive or negative effects that go beyond the limits of time and location. They acquire distinct importance on a regional or international level. For instance, the events of September 11, 2001.
So will the Lausanne Declaration to be signed between Iran and the P5+1 (United States, Britain, France, Russia, China plus Germany) on June 30 become an important moment in time in the Middle East?
The discussions currently taking place between the Iranians and the major powers in Vienna on details linked to the implementation of some aspects, to be scrutinised by inspection teams, will not change the nature of the deal. When Iraq lost the war in 1991 to the international coalition forces led by the US, it was forced as the loser to reveal the details of its nuclear, chemical and missile programmes. Accordingly, Iraq acquiesced to the requests of the International Atomic Energy Agency and chemical weapons watchdogs to open all its sites, including military ones, to inspection. It was also forced to agree that experts from international organisations would conduct interviews with Iraqi scientists about this programme and interrogate them in order to extract as much information as possible.
Iran is facing a similar situation today in some aspects, although it did not lose a war. But it lost its ability to continue under the weight of severe sanctions, which have gravely affected its economy. These sanctions did not succeed in stopping Iran from moving forward. On the contrary, they contributed towards accelerating its nuclear programme. However, these same sanctions also brought Iran to the negotiating table.
There is a contradiction in the ambiguous relationship between Iran and the international community regarding its nuclear programme. This paradox emerged from the long negotiations that followed the disclosure of its controversial nuclear programme in 2003. The Iranian negotiators were proficient in the use of various methods to procrastinate and prolong the negotiations to gain time for their nuclear programme to reach the point of no return. Iran achieved many successes in this context, which brought it very close to owning a nuclear weapon.
However, the situation began to change when the sanctions hit the economy and when the international embargo began to really bite. The Iranians then became more keen than the international community to speed up the negotiations to reach a settlement. The Lausanne Declaration did not result in an agreement between two parties that trusted each other; quite the opposite. The sanctions imposed on Iran over its nuclear programme will not be lifted immediately, but gradually, in a manner that will be in line with the extent of Iran’s implementation of the agreement.
The other sanctions on Iran for its human rights record, support for terrorist organisations or its ballistic missile programme will remain. Over the next 10 years, there will continue to be doubts about Iran’s intentions. The West is very keen to prevent Iran in this period from exploiting the limited nuclear programme it was allowed to possess in the Lausanne agreement to obtain enough enriched uranium for manufacturing a nuclear weapon.
The surveillance and control system over the Iranian nuclear programme is both strict and rigid to an unprecedented degree. It goes beyond nuclear facilities to include military sites despite repeated Iranian official statements, such as those made by the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamanei, that the inspections of military sites and interrogation of scientists will not be allowed and will not be part of the final agreement.
Despite the keenness of the US and Iran — according to the media — to distinguish the negotiations with Iran over its nuclear programme from any other political issue regarding its role in the Middle East or elsewhere, it is unlikely that the Lausanne agreement will not have implications on some of the crises concerning Iran, especially in Iraq.
It is doubtful that the Lausanne Declaration will become a very important event in a region that does not only worry about Iran’s nuclear programme but also about Tehran’s policies and overt intervention in the affairs of Arab states, putting their security and stability in danger.
However, this declaration will allow other countries in the region to pursue limited technology to enrich uranium, as long as the international community grants its approval to Iran.
- Mohammad Akef Jamal is an Iraqi writer based in Dubai.