Behind the Scenes of the Lausanne Nuclear Agreement

After 12 years of negotiations, Iran and the great powers were finally able to agree upon a framework for a final deal in regards to the Iranian nuclear program. Both sides have announced that they hope to reach a final, comprehensive agreement with three more months of intensive negotiations. I have expressed my opinion about the more technical aspects of the nuclear agreement elsewhere, and as such will not concern myself with them here. Rather I will limit myself to the observation that this framework represents the ideal or desired agreement for neither party, and if a final deal is reached, that, too, will not be the ideal for either side.

The reality is that Iran and the six world powers each made considerable mutual concessions as well as significant gains in the Lausanne deal reached on April 2. During the most recent speech I made in the U.S. Congress, I recounted five major gains for Iran, five for the world powers and five for the international community. In a way, each side both won and lost.

In the general framework agreement, Iran has gained two major advantages. First, the lifting of the sanctions, and second, the guarantee of Iran’s right to make use of its peaceful technologies, including uranium enrichment. The world powers also made two major gains; first, the most stringent nuclear checks in world history, and second, extraordinary limits on Iran’s uranium enrichment and heavy water reactor at Arak. I would like to point out here, by the way, that this is the first time in the world’s nuclear history that the global powers have officially accepted a country’s right to enrich. Therefore, if the deal goes through, Iran’s right to enrich will be recognized. Otherwise, the final deal will not be possible.

Most of the current discussions in Washington, Tehran and on an international level are focused on enrichment capacity, how and when the sanctions will be lifted, Arak’s heavy water reactor, the enrichment sites at Natanz and Fordo, research and development, International Atomic Energy Agency inspections, and Iran’s enriched reserves. However, in my opinion, the real issue behind the scenes in the U.S. and Israel is none of these things; these are the superficial trappings of the debate.

It hardly needs stating that the basis of America’s strategy in Iran has been regime change ever since the revolution. All of the basic points of contention in the last 35 years [between the U.S. and Iran], like human rights, terrorism and weapons of mass destruction, have all been a pretext for imposing sanctions and putting pressure on Iran in an effort to topple the Islamic Republic of Iran. In the course of the five years that I have spent in the U.S., in hundreds of articles, speeches and interviews, I have reminded Americans that in the past 60 years, Washington has supported dictatorships and corrupt and undemocratic regimes in the Middle East. Furthermore, its current allies in the region do not meet the standards of democracy and human rights upheld in the West, and these allies have been the supporters and benefactors of terrorist extremists. Know with certainty that the White House and the West are perfectly aware of these realities.

Back when the nuclear crisis began in 2003, the chief worry of most of those concerned for the nation’s welfare, including the present writer, was that we not let America use this issue as a tool for its own goals and ends. A main concern was that the case not go before the Security Council, fall under Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter, and allow Iran to become a threat to international peace and security that would be dealt with via harsh sanctions. What’s done is done, and unfortunately each of these things did happen and for the first time, a global consensus was formed to impose the toughest possible sanctions on Iran. But was America’s goal with this great global effort really just the Iranian nuclear program? No — the aim was to use the nuclear issue as a tool to establish an upper limit on the [enrichment] capacities of world powers and employ international mechanisms to achieve their long-held strategy of regime change.

But what is the major debate over today in Washington? Is the main question whether the sanctions are lifted immediately or gradually? Whether enrichment is limited or not? Whether Iran will have an industrial fuel cycle in five years or 10 to 15? No! All of these issues have been brought up, but the real question in Washington is whether to continue or put an end to the policy of regime change in Iran.

Netanyahu and many in Congress are saying that a nuclear agreement, sanctions relief, and paving the way for resulting cooperation between Iran and the U.S. on the many other issues on which we have shared interests — like fighting the Islamic State and al-Qaida — in reality means the end of the regime change strategy and the beginning of a new chapter of cooperation with Iran. Such a strategy would result in the practical recognition of the Islamic Republic and Iran’s role in the region. The period of America’s experiments with the regime change policy has lasted 35 years. The trust-building that went into the Lausanne agreement, meanwhile, has been 10 to 25 years in the making. The American emphasis on this time period is ostensibly to build trust on the nuclear issue, but in reality it represents the era of experimenting with the policy of cooperation with Iran.

Opponents in Washington insist that this strategy will result in the weakening or loss of allies in the region like Israel and the Arabs. This is a literal translation of Netanyahu’s statement in which he announced that the Lausanne deal threatens the existence of Israel. In August 2013, Obama became the first American president to proclaim before the U.N. that regime change in Iran was not his government’s strategy. He formally recognized the Supreme Leader’s fatwa against nuclear weapons. After the Lausanne agreement in April 2015, he also announced that the policy of imposing sanctions had not worked and that it was not logical to continue the strategy of pressure and isolation in relation to Iran. These words from Obama need no further explanation.

For several years now, I have had the opportunity to talk to professors, newspaper editors, think tanks, and former American and European politicians and to try to make them understand that the policy of pressure, sanctions, and regime change in Iran is misguided and that they should be working together with Iran. These conversations significantly improved my understanding of America. The most contentious dispute in Washington in the last few decades, both behind closed doors and in public, has not been the nuclear issue. The question which has led to the most formidable challenges in the history of the relationship between the U.S., Israel and some Arab nations is, in fact, over the change to the strategy of regime change. This dispute has generated unprecedented hatred toward Obama by hardline Republicans, extremist Zionists and some of the bitter Arab nations. This hatred toward Obama for his cooperation with Iran is particularly strong among the hawkish elements in America, Israel and the Arab countries.

If the policy of cooperation with Iran leads to a nuclear agreement, it will result in a new chapter in the political history of Iran and its counterparts in the Middle East. For we can be certain that Obama will not be able to gloss over the sticking point of changing America’s strategy on Iran, and that the political careers of all those involved on both sides vying to cut a deal will be at risk. I believe that we Iranians are going through the most politically significant moment in our history since the revolution. This is my understanding of the possibility of a nuclear agreement between Iran and the West. The Lord most high has been the protector of the oppressed nation and the guarantor of the blood of the martyrs of the Iranian revolution, and God willing, He will continue to be.

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