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Iran deal goes from risky to farcical

The AP report has been slammed by the IAEA as “misleading”

Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor

Published: Updated:

When I first learned that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had signed an agreement permitting Iran to self-monitor at least one of its major nuclear sites, I shrugged off the news as a figment of someone’s heated imagination. It is inconceivable that the world’s nuclear watchdog, known for its professionalism and stringent monitoring, would sign-off on something so bizarre – or so I initially believed.

Iraq, whose nuclear activities, both civilian and military, were dismantled following the Gulf War, certainly did not get off that lightly. Even after years of intrusive inspections, the IAEA under the directorship of Mohammed El Baradei declined to present Iraq’s deserved clean bill of health to the U.N. Security Council prior to the U.S.-led invasion.

My view broadly reflects the opinions of many of Iran’s neighbours, fearful that the lifting of sanctions will see Iran’s coffers overflowing into the hands of its armed proxies

Khalaf Ahmad al-Habtoor

Yet the Islamic Republic of Iran, that has been spinning thousands of centrifuges to enrich uranium and has refused to come clean on its past activities in this sphere, is trusted to inspect itself!

The IAEA cannot be accused of lacking innovation. Perhaps we will soon see drivers suspected of being under the influence allowed to test their own substance levels. Moreover, given the ayatollahs are suddenly considered trustworthy, years of negotiations could have been avoided. A simple affidavit signed by the supreme leader would have sufficed just as well. Something does not smell right here.

Obama’s claim

Just as fishy is the Obama administration’s claim that the U.S. was not a party to this agreement specific to the Parchin Military Complex - known as Separate Arrangement II – when it was approved by all P5+1 countries.

A White House spokesman has confirmed the administration is “comfortable” with the terms of the confidential side agreement between Iran and the IAEA. Are we to suppose that the IAEA took this dangerous, lackadaisical approach off its own bat?

According to a leaked draft of this ‘Separate Arrangement’ divulged by the Associated Press, Iran is bound to provide the IAEA with photographs and videos of the various locations within Parchin, together with environmental samples. The question remains, how can those photos, videos and samples be verified as relating to the Parchin complex - and even if they are legit, who is to know whether or not they have been cherry-picked?

President Obama’s assurances that Iran’s activities would be subject to “unprecedented verification” sound ever more hollow. The IAEA has been barred from this site, suspected of carrying out tests related to nuclear weapons, since 2005 and, now it is assented to being locked-out for the duration, which is out of character.

This surrender on the part of the IAEA leads me to believe that like so many other U.N. bodies, the IAEA is politicised; in this case, it has shaped its usual rock-solid strategies to suit political goals. However it is spun, this does not amount to “the most robust inspection regime” ever, as touted by the Obama administration.

Slamming the report

The AP report has been slammed by the IAEA as “misleading”. However, the agency’s Director General Yukiya Amano has not disavowed the draft’s published content. He insisted that the arrangements are in conformity with long-established IAEA practices, while emphasising that he has “a legal obligation not to make them public.” One is left wondering why the public, not to mention U.S. lawmakers, are being left in the dark.

As my regular readers would know, I have been against this unsatisfactory arrangement since day one, primarily because of its narrow remit. An acceptable deal would have been conditional upon Tehran ceasing its trouble-making and attempts to topple governments throughout the region.

My view broadly reflects the opinions of many of Iran’s neighbours, rightly fearful that the lifting of sanctions will see Iran’s coffers overflowing into the hands of its armed proxies.

President Obama has repeatedly countered our concerns on the grounds that curbing Iran’s nuclear ambitions for ten years is better than no deal. I did not find his arguments credible then, but now the existence of secret side agreements have come to the fore, my suspicions that Iran is being deliberately empowered to fit a geopolitical end-game are heightened.

I would love to know why this entity that has been hostile to Western powers and their allies since its inception in 1979 is being rewarded for its terrorist associations and its regional will to power. Or is this animosity with the West just a farce to fool us?

European capitals are eyeing up lucrative trade deals and planning to reopen their embassies in Tehran. Iranian-Russian trade is set to expand exponentially. Iran’s oil industry is gearing up to expand production of crude to pre-sanctions levels, which could see already depressed oil prices spiralling to new lows making the U.S. fracking industry uncompetitive.

Obama’s hard-sell campaign is not working, despite his frequent appearances on U.S. news networks to plug the deal for all he is worth and his furious lobbying of Congress. He has even resorted to pleading with the American people to press their Congressional representatives to vote ‘yes’, but is making little headway. A recently released CNN/ORC poll indicates that 56 per cent of Americans want Congress to reject the deal.

Just about every Republican presidential hopeful - with the exception of Jeb Bush who is on the fence - vows to undo the deal and re-impose sanctions; most of their Democratic rivals are trying to distance themselves from the topic.

Congress has 60 days to put the issue under a spotlight and is set to vote early next month on a ‘Resolution of Disapproval’. If the vote fails to go in the president’s favour, in theory, Congress could prevent him from lifting sanctions against Iran. Obama has threatened to use his veto, risking putting the White House and Congress on a war footing. In the unlikely event that two-thirds of Congress is opposed, requiring Democrats to jump camp, his veto is automatically overridden.

President Obama has been browbeating and bribing America’s Middle East allies, appealing to the American to ensure that we in my part of the world are not doomed to pay the price. people and playing the heavy with Congress to seal his deal, to the point of being unseemly. At stake is his legacy. It is my hope that America’s lawmakers will rise to the occasion.

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Khalaf Ahmad al-Habtoor is a prominent UAE businessman and public figure. He is Chairman of the Al Habtoor Group - one of the most successful conglomerates in the Gulf. Al Habtoor is renowned for his knowledge and views on international political affairs; his philanthropic activity; his efforts to promote peace; and he has long acted as an unofficial ambassador for his country abroad. Writing extensively on both local and international politics, he publishes regular articles in the media and has released a number of books. Al-Habtoor began his career as an employee of a local UAE construction firm and in 1970 established his own company, Al Habtoor Engineering. The UAE Federation, which united the seven emirates under the one flag for the first time, was founded in 1971 and this inspired him to undertake a series of innovative construction projects – all of which proved highly successful.


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