|America's Obama Obama and Iran's Rouhani (from algemeiner.com)|
Led by Saudi Arabia, Arab governments are dumbstruck by Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers and the Islamic Republic’s acceptance on the global stage.
Not so Israel, which calls the deal a “mistake,” and not so the overwhelming majority of political analysts and commentators in the Arab media.
Fahmi Howeidi, dean of these Arab public opinion-shapers, concludes his think piece today for Aljazeera TV news portal with a sentence saying: “The long and short of the new balance of power in the Arab world is this: Iran tops the list of winners but there is no mention of the Arabs anywhere.”
Tariq Alhomayed, writing today for Asharq Alawsat, the Saudi newspaper of records of which he was editor-in-chief, believes “the deal with Iran is more treacherous than 9/11.”
U.S. President Barack Obama overnight defended the deal between Iran and world powers on Tehran's nuclear program.
The six-month interim deal struck in Geneva on Sunday saw Iran agree to curb some of its nuclear activities in return for sanctions relief.
The accord has been generally welcomed but Israel's prime minister called it "a historic mistake".
The West has long suspected Iran's uranium enrichment program is geared towards making a weapon, but Tehran insists it only wants nuclear energy.
The UN, U.S. and European Union had imposed a raft of sanctions on Tehran.
"Huge challenges remain, but we cannot close the door on diplomacy, and we cannot rule out peaceful solutions to the world's problems," the BBC quoted Obama as saying during an event in San Francisco.
"We cannot commit ourselves to an endless cycle of violence, and tough talk and bluster may be the easy thing to do politically, but it's not the right thing for our security."
Earlier, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced an Israeli team led by national security adviser Yossi Cohen would travel to Washington for talks on the deal.
"This accord must bring about one outcome: the dismantling of Iran's military nuclear capability," he said.
Israel has not ruled out taking military action to stop Iran developing the capability of a nuclear bomb.
Saudi Arabia -- Iran's regional counterweight -- cautiously welcomed the deal yesterday.
Under the deal which will last six months, Iran would receive some $7bn in "limited, temporary, targeted, and reversible [sanctions] relief" while a permanent agreement is sought.
Key points of the deal include:
- Iran will stop enriching uranium beyond 5% and "neutralize" its stockpile of uranium enriched beyond this point
- Iran will 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
- Some sanctions will be suspended on trading in gold and precious metals, on Iran's car-making sector and its petrochemical exports
- Frozen oil sale assets will be transferred in installments, bringing in some $4.2bn of extra revenue.
Howeidi, in his piece today for Aljazeera quotes unnamed Iranian experts as telling him:
- The deal recognizes Iran as a regional nuclear power with the right to continue its uranium enrichment program for peaceful purposes
- The Iranians and Americans rushed the deal through to sidestep adverse pressure by Israel, France and some Gulf Arab lobbyists
- The Iranian-American understandings go beyond the nuclear program and the easing of economic sanctions. “The most important understanding is over Iran’s participation in the fight against terrorism in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Afghanistan”
- The deal allows Iran to receive some $7 billion in sanctions relief; about $1.5 billion of the frozen assets were promptly released to Tehran “by Asian banks in South Korea, Malaysia and Indonesia as early as last Sunday morning”
- Shell, which was complying with the sanctions, was the first oil major to resume work in Iran.
Howeidi sums up the most important features of the agreement between the 5+1 world powers and Iran as follows:
- It seems a new axis is taking shape in the region comprising Iran and Russia, the two countries that played a key role in aborting an American military strike against Syria.
- The U.S. will henceforth “rely on Iran and Turkey to keep the peace in the region now that Egypt has lost its standing in the Arab world.” Iran is on the ground in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon and to some degree in Yemen, where it is supporting the Houthis. Turkey on the other hand has its role in Syria, Iraq and the Caucasus in Central Asia. Ankara also has its strong economic ties with many Arab countries.
- There are still question marks over a sectarian war between the Sunnis and Shiites in the Arab world, over Iran’s support of the Islamic movements in Palestine and Lebanon and over future links between Cairo and Tehran.
- Israel is in a win-win situation. Syria’s chemical weapons are being buried and checks on Iran’s nuclear ambitions are being put in place.
- Iran’s clout in the Gulf, Syria, Iraq and Lebanon is on the ascendancy. The Gulf, which usually banks on the U.S. is now less prone to challenge Iran. That’s particularly true of Saudi Arabia, which lost its gamble on America’s air strike on Syrian regime forces and on mobilizing Sunni forces against Tehran.
- “The long and short of the new balance of power in the Arab world is this: Iran tops the list of winners but there is no mention of the Arabs anywhere.”
In the view of Saudi journalist Tariq Alhomayed, “fallouts of the deal on the region – specifically on Saudi Arabia and its Gulf Arab partners – will prove more treacherous than the consequences of the 9/11 terrorist outrage that pummeled the United States in 2001.
“I am not dramatizing. It is not so because the Obama Administration sold the region down the river or that the administration turned its back on its historic partnership with Gulfite Arabs.
Many forget that America betrayed Israel, her sacred cow in the region.
Alhomayed says Iran’s chief objective since the days of the late Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlevi was to become the “region’s policeman.”
The Islamic Republic will eventually rid itself of all economic sanctions and achieve its primary objective of creating nuclear weapons “much as India and Pakistan did under Bill Clinton, another Democratic Party president.”