Monthly Archives: July 2015

Dependent on global hegemon

After 18 days of negotiations, and 20 months after the initial talks regarding Iran’s nuclear programme started in New York, Iran and the P5+1 powers finally signed a deal on July 14.

viennaNot everyone was happy. Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu had already declared that “some of the negotiating countries” (a clear reference to the Americans) were “willing to make a deal at any price”,1 and afterwards he described it as “a mistake of historic dimensions”. His allies in the US Republican Party echoed these sentiments.

As details of the 159-page document became known, it was clear it was neither the “win-win” claimed by Iranian president Hassan Rowhani and his foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, nor the disaster that conservative Islamist opponents inside Iran said would result from any deal with the ‘Great Satan’. While Iran’s nuclear programme was not “heroic resistance”, as supporters of the regime claimed, giving up major aspects, it was not “heroic softening” either, as supreme leader Ali Khamenei had claimed earlier this year. The Financial Timessummary is accurate: “Iran has accepted unprecedented international control and surveillance over its nuclear programme, as well as cuts in its uranium stocks and in the number of centrifuges.”2

At the end the day Iran’s neoliberal, dependent capitalist economy was brought to its knees by punitive sanctions imposed by successive US administrations. They had little to do with the country’s nuclear programme: they were about regime change from above. But for the time being that threat, along with the possibility of a military attack, is lifted – at least until the US presidential elections of 2017.

Rowhani, speaking immediately after the deal was signed, claimed Iran had actually won the right to pursue its nuclear programme and, strictly speaking, this is true: low-enriched uranium can now be used to produce fuel for nuclear-power plants.

In exchange, Iran’s Islamic republic has to remove or destroy two-thirds of its existing centrifuges, used for enriching uranium, as well as getting rid of 98% of its stockpile of enriched uranium, leaving just 300kg for the next 15 years. The heavy-water reactor in Arak will be converted, so that it cannot produce weapons-grade plutonium and Iran will not start building any new reactors for the next 15 years. It will be limited to installing no more than 5,060 of the oldest and least efficient centrifuges for 10 years. In fact the restrictions accepted by Iran are far more severe than any regulation stipulated by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

We are back to where we were 13 years ago, when the nuclear conflict started. However, in the meantime, Iran has spent billions buying dodgy nuclear equipment, often on the black market, while, as I have said, sanctions have destroyed its economy.

A compromise was reached over Khamenei’s ‘red line’: the inspection of the country’s military sites. Iran has agreed to allow United Nations inspectors to access any site they consider to be suspicious. However, Iran will be able to challenge such requests and a meeting with the P5+1 will make the final decision on its legitimacy. One could argue over to what extent this is a face-saving solution. After all, Khamenei had categorically stated: “I will not allow inspection of Iran’s military installations.”

However, sanctions (another of his ‘red lines’) will be removed at once, when the International Atomic Energy Agency confirms that its ‘Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action’ has been followed through, which the IAEA declared should be completed by the end of the year. Iran has accepted that if it violates the deal sanctions could be restored within 65 days.

While a UN arms embargo will remain in place for five years, this could end earlier if the IAEA is satisfied that Iran is pursuing an entirely peaceful nuclear programme. A UN ban on the import of ballistic missile technology could remain in place for up to eight years. Although by all accounts the Russians, keen to sell such missiles, were opposed to this, the Iranian delegation gave in.


On July 11, as Iranians awaited the conclusion of the negotiations, ayatollah Khamenei addressed the issue of Iran’s relations with the US after the deal. Khamenei called the US the “ultimate embodiment of arrogance” and warned that Iran’s opposition to America would continue: “Get ready to continue combating the arrogant power.”

In fact Tehran’s pursuance of a neoliberal economic agenda has long since demonstrated that it has to succumb to the wishes of this “arrogant power” and the system over which it is the global hegemon. Iran is now one of the most unequal societies in the region, where “a new class of untouchable one-percenters hoards money, profiting from sanctions and influential relations, leaving Iran’s middle classes to face the full force of the country’s deepening economic woes”.3

This week news came of billions of dollars of personal wealth accumulated by ministers of the former president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, as a result of both privatisation and sanction busting. Ahmadinejad – Khamenei’s favourite president, the man who claimed to be the defender of the poor and the disinherited, who claimed he would stamp out corruption – was by all accounts heading one of the most corrupt governments of recent times. In June his vice-president, Hamid Baghaei, was charged with embezzlement, while in January, another of Ahmadinejad’s vice-presidents, Mohammad Reza Rahimi, was jailed for five years and ordered to pay 38.5 billion rials ($1.3 million) in connection with a money-laundering scheme worth billions of dollars.

But Khamenei’s reaction to the seemingly endless revelations of corruption, alongside the continued abject poverty for the majority, has been to call for such matters to be played down. According to him, there is no need to exaggerate things – think of the demoralisation that will cause!

In other words, our ‘third worldist’ supreme leader, who is presiding over one of the most unequal and corrupt capitalist countries anywhere in the world, where the neoliberal economic agenda imposed by the IMF, World Bank and indeed the US has created conditions of mass unemployment, ‘white contracts’ and wholesale privatisation, every now and then comes out with slogans about fighting US arrogance (he consciously avoids using the term ‘imperialism’ because of its Marxist connotations).

Our supreme leader’s politics are indeed frozen in the 1970s. He fails to acknowledge that, for all the slogans of the Islamic revolution about economic independence, full employment and a comfortable standard of living for all, by the end of the 20th century, things remained pretty desperate. Iran’s population more than doubled between 1980 and 2000 and its median age declined. Although many Iranians are farmers, agricultural production has consistently fallen since the 1960s. By the late 1990s, Iran imported much of its food. At that time, economic hardship in the countryside resulted in many people moving to the cities.

Iran might seem to be a regional power because of its influence in Lebanon, Syria, Bahrain and Yemen, but it is very much economically dependent on international capital. Conditions imposed by the IMF and the World Bank in exchange for loans made a mockery of claims of independence. Khamenei chooses to ignore the fact that, long before sanctions, Iran was totally dependent on the sale of oil.


In February 2015, an inspection team from the International Monetary Fund visited Tehran. It was led by Martin Cerisola, assistant director for the Middle East and central Asia. In their discussions with Iranian authorities, the IMF team discussed developments in the Iranian economy, short-term programmes and the Rowhani government’s macroeconomic policies and reform agenda.

Cerisola’s statement at the end of this visit was typical of such inspections by IMF:

The discussions focused on the policies needed for preserving disinflation gains and for supporting the economy in its adjustment to lower oil prices. For this, the IMF team recommended that fiscal policy should aim at limiting the budget deficit in the next fiscal year to around 2.5% of GDP … The discussions also focused on the need for pressing ahead with reforms and the authorities’ plans in the banking sector to address nonperforming loans and strengthen the efficiency of financial intermediation.4

We all know what IMF “reforms” have done so far – Khamenei does not need to look very hard to see signs of imperialist “arrogance”. However, as the negotiations progressed, foreign firms – in particular European-based transnationals – started queuing up to invest in Iran, with its cheap labour, stringent restrictions on workers’ rights and a workforce that has been disciplined by years of unemployment.

No wonder France, Germany and the United Kingdom were so keen to find a solution to the remaining points of contention. The German industrial group, BDI, is already trading with Iran to the tune of $2.4 billion, and it now hopes to increase this to $10 billion. According to Jean-Christophe Quémard, one of the directors of French car maker PSA Peugeot Citroën, plans are being discussed to resume car assembly in Iran (Peugeot had closed its plant in Tehran in 2012). Of course, this will mean jobs for hundreds of workers, but it will also yield major profits for the French car manufacturer.

And, according to the Wall Street Journal,

American firms have already been exploring the market potential. Apple Inc has been in touch with potential Iranian distributors … Boeing Co started selling aircraft manuals and charts to an Iranian airline last year, its first Iranian sales in more than three decades …

General Electric Co already has limited exposure. Under the current sanctions’ humanitarian exemptions, the company distributes medical equipment like MRI machines and CT scanners in Iran … a spokeswoman said … “We look forward to reviewing the details of the agreement reached and will watch the regulatory landscape that may unfold.”5

Someone should tell the supreme leader that Iran’s corrupt Islamic Republic is part and parcel of the capitalist order and its “world arrogance”, into which it will be now much more closely integrated.

What next?

For all the hysteria expressed by Israel and to a certain extent Saudi Arabia in opposition to the deal, it is very clear from statements by both president Barack Obama and Khamenei that the political situation in the region will not change dramatically.

The US is determined to support Turkish and Saudi efforts for regime change in Syria. The fact that arms embargoes remain in place for the foreseeable future show that, contrary to what Robert Fisk has written, the US has not changed track. According to Fisk,

Goodbye, therefore, to the overwhelming influence of the Sunni Muslim nations, which gave their sons to the 9/11 crimes against humanity and provided the world with Osama bin Laden, which supported the Taliban and then the Sunni Islamists of Iraq and Syria and – finally – goodbye to those emirs and princes who support Isis. Washington is sick and tired of the decrepit princes of the Gulf, their puritanical lectures, their tiresome wealth (unless it’s paying for US weaponry) and their grotty civil war in Yemen. Shia Iran is now the good guy on the block.6

Not true. The twin-track policy of containing Islamic State, while promoting failed states in Iraq and Syria, is now supplemented by a policy of controlling Iran. There will be no sanctions against the main backers of IS – Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the other Gulf states. On the contrary, arms sales to all these countries will continue and by all accounts the Saudi kingdom is seeking to develop its own nuclear programme. Let us hope that this aspect of Saudi military expenditure is not shared with IS.

What about the situation inside Iran following the deal? The Iranian people celebrated it in their thousands and there are reasons to do so. Hopefully the lifting of sanctions will mean better access to medication and essential supplies. The country will be able to import spare parts for production and for transport vehicles and undoubtedly this will save lives. The lifting of banking sanctions means Iranians can enter into personal and commercial international transactions and this has already seen an improvement in the rate of exchange for the rial, Iran’s currency.

Iranian students will be able to continue their studies outside the country, and there will be work for some of the millions of workers who have lost their jobs over the last few years, courtesy of the ‘targeted sanctions’. Those sanctions impoverished the majority of the population, while bringing windfalls of billions of dollars to the select few, including within the Islamic government. The regime will no longer be able to cite sanctions as its excuse for economic mismanagement, unemployment and poverty.

But do not expect improvements in democratic rights. On the contrary, having made the decision to reverse the nuclear programme for the sake of remaining in power, the regime (all its factions, ‘reformist’ and conservative) will remain opposed to basic political freedoms, and those fighting for the rights of workers, women and national/religious minorities will continue to face an uphill struggle. They will now find fewer allies and supporters outside Iran, as funds for regime change dry up.

Having said that, we in Hands off the People of Iran will continue to extend our principled solidarity to those struggling against oppression.








Edging towards a deal

viennaIn the weeks leading up to June 30 2015, it was clear that the real deadline for Iran’s nuclear negotiations with the P5+1 powers was July 9. For the Obama administration, the potential resolution of the conflict with Iran will play a significant part in the president’s legacy, and from this point of view, the less time opponents of the deal in Congress have to mobilise, the better. If a deal is reached by July 9, they will only have 30 days. After that, they would have 60 days, taking into account the summer recess. That would give a better chance to Republican and Democrat allies of Israel and Saudi Arabia to derail the agreement.

From the first days of this round of negotiations it was clear that, for all the claims of unity, each of the 5+1 powers were following their own agenda. The European countries – Germany and Britain, and to a lesser extent France – are keen to resume economic relations with Iran, while Russia and China, hoping for arms deals, seem to support the Islamic Republic’s additional demands for an end to the arms embargo. For its part, the US administration is under pressure to take a hard line – or at least appear to take a hard line – and achieve, in the words of secretary of state John Kerry, a “good deal”.

Of course, what is a “good deal” for the United States, and by extension Saudi Arabia and Israel, will be a bad deal for Iran, which is why there appeared to be deadlock in the last hours of the negotiations. Earlier this week Iran and the P5+1 had drafted a document addressing the contentious issue of how the pace and timing of sanctions relief would proceed, though US officials claimed that there was still more work to be done. But on July 6, western foreign ministers gave ‘unofficial briefings’ to the media, claiming that Iran’s demand for the lifting of all UN sanctions on weapons sales had become a major sticking point. If these rumours are true, foreign minister JavadZarif (and president Hassan Rowhani) had taken an even harder position than that of the supreme leader, Ali Khamenei. His maximum demands, declared more than a week before the start of the latest negotiations, only mentioned economic and banking sanctions. It is assumed that this new, harder position was taken during Zarif’s unexpected return to Tehran last week.

Russia has already sold advanced anti-aircraft S-300 missiles to Iran, following the Geneva agreement in April 2015. The original $800 million deal signed in 2007 was suspended because the US and Israel objected, and then in 2010 the UN security council imposed more sanctions on Iran because of its nuclear programme, and delivery of the missiles was frozen. By the evening of July 7 senior Iranian negotiator Abbas Araghchi was claiming that 95% of the agreement had been finalised. However, there was one issue remaining – that of the arms embargo.1

For the US this is one red line it cannot cross. Saudi Arabia, the Persian Gulf states and Israel are all vehemently opposed to the sale of ground-to-air and ground-to-ground missiles, especially as it is likely that some of these missiles will end up in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Lebanon.

Inside Iran, the continuation of the sanctions is causing frustration and despair. In May 2015, the centre for international and security studies at Maryland University conducted a poll of the Iranian people, in collaboration with the University of Tehran and Although opinion polls are often subjective – they depend on the question being asked and the timing – this particular study shows that two thirds of Iranians are opposed to nuclear weapons, that eight in 10 approve of the goal of eliminating them and establishing a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East. In addition a substantial majority agreed with what was known at the time of the western conditions for an agreement – only one in six opposed. The study also found that nearly three in four were optimistic that Iran and the P5+1 would arrive at a deal and hoped sanctions would be lifted soon.2

According to another study, conducted by the Program for Public Consultation at the University of Maryland, “61% of Americans support an agreement that would limit Iran’s enrichment capacity and impose additional intrusive inspections in exchange for the lifting of sanctions. Only 36% support ending the current negotiations and increasing sanctions in an effort to get Iran to stop all uranium enrichment.”


So why is there so much opposition to the proposed deal both from within  Iran’s Islamic Republic and legislators in the Senate and Congress? In Iran the opposition comes from some of the most corrupt sections of the regime – mainly the conservative factions, who have profited from the black market resulting from sanctions. The billions of dollars of wealth accumulated by allies and officials of former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad explain why they are amongst the harshest critics of these, and indeed any, negotiations. They have not been concerned about the details – their main worry is the protection of their business interests, many of which rely on the continuation of sanctions.

Then there are the exiles. Iranian opponents of the deal, some of whom were frequently present outside the hotel in Vienna where the negotiations were taking place, are often beneficiaries of various regime-change funds associated with the US, European and Arab countries. They and their groups, some claiming to be on the left, have flourished in the last few years. In fact their political positions have been very close to those of Israel and Saudi Arabia. These exiles fail to realise that the current sanctions against Iran have nothing to do with the country’s abuse of human rights, women’s rights or workers’ rights. If the US or its European partners were really concerned about such issues, their main regional allies would hardly be Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Meanwhile, some bizarre comments are coming from Iran’s apologists – reminiscent of the infamous statements defending the regime’s policy of forced transgender operations as a victory for homosexuals! Today ‘leftwing’ supporters of the Islamic Republic are claiming that the country’s stance on the nuclear issue should be considered ‘heroic resistance’.

In reality billions have been wasted on redundant, second-hand technology to maintain unsafe nuclear enrichment plants, while at the same time Iran has faced the most paralysing sanctions – exposing the disastrous effects of its complete economic dependence on the world capitalist order. Hundreds of thousands of workers have lost their jobs and tens of thousands of patients have died because of the shortage of proper medicines and equipment – all for 20%-enriched uranium, which the International Atomic Energy Agency then insisted had to be disposed of. A year ago the IAEA reported: “209.1kg of 20%-enriched UF6 held by Iran in January 2014 has now been either diluted or converted to uranium oxide.”3

What a waste of life, money and resources – proving once more that this third-world dictatorship’s ‘anti-western’ slogans are nothing but empty, dangerous rhetoric. After 36 and a half years of ‘anti-American’ slogans, the leaders of Iran’s Islamic republic are now dreaming of the day when the US embassy will reopen. As negotiations dragged on in Vienna, ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the Islamic republic’s former president, toldThe Guardian, “It was ‘not impossible’ that an American embassy could reopen in Tehran. But that depends on the behaviour of both sides.”4


One of the controversial issues in the current discussions is the inspection of Iran’s military bases by the IAEA. It is clear that the six world powers have made Iran an offer on this question.

Again according to unofficial briefings, the current proposal is that a commission would be set up to resolve disputes when the IAEA seeks access to certain sites. If Iran refuses access and the IAEA’s case is strong, then the commission would look into the issue and its decision based on a simple majority would be final in determining whether such an inspection was ‘legitimate’. In analysing this, sections of the press in Iran have pointed out the obvious: the kind of punitive sanctions Iran was facing had one raison d’être: regime change from above. If the Islamic republic accepts inspection of its military bases in exchange for the removal of sanctions, it would be ceding a major advantage to those contemplating such regime change.

According to deputy foreign minister Araghchi, previously “We never progressed as far as we have now; we never went so far in drafting. However, there are still differences.”5 When asked about the ‘red lines’ set by Khamenei and whether they made reaching a deal impossible, Zarif replied: “Nothing the supreme leader said is new; this is the consistent position of Iran from the day we started the negotiations.” On June 28, as negotiations were starting, a Twitter account allegedly belonging to Khamenei displayed a picture of Zarif and his team along with the text: “I recognise our negotiators as trustworthy, committed, brave and faithful.” In subsequent interviews with the international media Zarif has proudly referred to this.

However, Iranian conservatives see things differently: for example, ‘Shamisan’ has posted this message: “While the soldiers on the diplomatic front, with the backing of a nation, have taken on the enemy, some, instead of having sympathy with them, are playing another tune.” He said such people in their attitude to the US have tried “to depict an angel … instead of the great Satan”. And the problem is that “when you are sitting opposite an angel, you have no reason not to trust him or resist his aims.”6

If these talks result in a final agreement, European cities such as Vienna and Geneva will miss the ministerial gatherings around nuclear negotiations. They are good business for hotels, restaurants – and by all accounts brothels. According to the Reuters news agency, brothel owners in Vienna were looking forward to the extension of the talks. One brothel manager reportedly “declined to say who were his most frequent customers, but made clear that, as far as he was concerned, the longer the negotiations between Iran and six world powers drag on, the better”.7








Destabilisation and failed states

In the aftermath of the horrific terrorist attacks of June 26 in Sousse, Lyon and Kuwait, David Cameron said: “We must be more intolerant of intolerance.” He called for a rejection of “anyone whose views condone the Islamist extremist narrative”. This was in line with comments made a week earlier when he condemned those British Muslims who he said “quietly condoned” the actions of groups like Islamic State.

Sections of the left, including Socialist Worker, have responded by attacking the government’s Islamophobia:

The Tories are certainly off the leash – as prime minister David Cameron’s Muslim-bashing speech to a security conference in Slovakia last week demonstrated. Heralding a new battery of repressive measures contained in the new Counter-Terrorism and Security Act, Cameron pointed the finger at Britain’s Muslims.[1]

Both Cameron and the SWP are wrong. IS’s terrorism has little to do with Islam and it is a mistake to accept the premise of the prime minister’s arguments. These terrible events have everything to do with politics and wars in the Middle East. While we should condemn the death of 30 innocent tourists in Sousse, we should not forget that they are the latest victims of bloody wars in Iraq, Yemen, Syria, Libya and Afghanistan, and new wars in Kuwait and Tunisia.

Kuwait is now saying it is engulfed in a major battle against Islamist fundamentalists and there are unconfirmed reports that Turkey is planning to invade Syria:

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has authorised a change in the rules of engagement agreed by the Turkish parliament to allow the army to strike at Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil), as well as the Assad regime, according to local newspapers. The aim is to establish a buffer zone for refugees and against Isil, but Mr Erdoğan has also suggested that the main target of the intervention, if it goes ahead, will be to prevent the emergence of a Kurdish state on Turkey’s doorstep.[2]

For far too long, western governments have ignored these conflicts and the death and destruction they have caused; the only time we see any concern is when the victims of these atrocities are western visitors or tourists. As Robert Fisk wrote on June 28,

It’s ‘us’ and ‘them’ again. It started just after news of the three Islamist attacks broke. David Cameron initially talked about the French and Tunisian killings. He left out the Kuwaiti mosque massacre – only picking up on it later.[3]

Proxy war

Confrontation between IS or Al Nusra, both offshoots of al Qa’eda, with the Syrian dictator, Assad, and the Shia government in Iraq, the bombing of Shia mosques in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia – these have little to do with Islam. The tens of thousands of civilians killed in these Middle East wars in the last few years have been mainly Muslims, irrespective of whether they are Shia, Sunni, Druze, Alavi, Houthi, Kurds, Arabs or Afghans.

The language of a Shia-Sunni conflict may be used, but that is only a diversion. What is happening in the Middle East is part of a proxy war between two regional powers: Iran and Saudi Arabia. No amount of preaching and deceiving by Cameron, Hollande and other ‘world leaders’, calls for sending in British troops or for other types of intervention can solve the problem. The colonial policies of ‘divide and rule’, plus historic and recent military interventions, including the invasion of Iraq in 2003, collectively constitute the cause of the problem.

Someone should tell Cameron that there is no point threatening Muslims in the UK. They did not create al Qa’eda: Saudi Arabia did. No-one is excusing IS, but the reality remains that, in order to defeat it, we have to deal with the root causes of this phenomenon. It was those imperialist allies, Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf states, who have supported and financed jihadist groups and continue to turn a blind eye to IS financial transactions in bank accounts held in such states. In addition Saudi Arabia and Turkey are currently arming and funding Al Nusra (another offshoot of al Qa’eda) in the hope of toppling the Assad regime. We know from the experience of the last few years that some of these arms end up in the hands of IS fighters – and no-one should have any illusions about Al Nusra: a vicious Wahabi jihadi group.

The British prime minister wants to cover up the fact that the United States and its allies are culpable in the creation of IS, not only by creating the conditions for its existence, but by failing to curtail the Saudi princes and other financial backers in the Emirates or Persian Gulf states.

The United States, France, the United Kingdom and other western countries do not want to draw attention to the fact that the failed states they have helped create in the region – Iraq, Syria, Libya – are the breeding ground for the jihadists. The Tunisian gunman who mowed down the British tourists was trained in Libya, where regime change from above went disastrously wrong, but let us not talk about whose bombs paved the way for jihadists taking over most of the country. In the rest of the Middle East dictators supported by the west for decades have, imprisoned, exiled and killed all liberal, secular and leftwing opposition. Cameron wants us to forget that the Islamic groups the US and Britain supported as opponents of communism have become monsters they cannot control. The Iraq war of 2003 in particular created the conditions for unprecedented regional influence for Iran’s Islamic republic, helping to ferment the Saudi phobia about this growing power. The Saudi princes are fearful of a much larger, more populated neighbour and it is precisely this fear that has paved the way for their unlimited support for Jihadi groups.

Robert Fisk, who is researching the history of the current conflicts, going back to the 1980s and 90s, says:

I’ve uncovered a world of almost inexpressible anger – yes, and talk of revenge – despite the Arab dictators who worked for us at the time and tried to smother this frustration, even when Iraqis were dying by the thousandfold. No, it didn’t create the Islamists who kill us today. But it helped lay the foundation for their cults of death – and for the world they grew up in. We had a hand in that. Cliché, of course. But it all goes back to justice.[4]


The current situation in the Middle East is a mess, but to complicate matters this week’s negotiations between the P5+1 powers and Iran might lead to an even more volatile situation. A landmark agreement is in the pipeline , one that that can ‘change dramatically the political map in the Middle East’ – or at least that is what the two main allies of the United States in the region, Saudi Arabia and Israel, fear. If a deal is signed, Iran, a country with 80 million inhabitants and relatively advanced levels of industrial development, will no longer be considered a rogue state. If efforts to derail the current nuclear negotiations do not work, we will see renewed Saudi and Turkish efforts to overthrow Assad, as well as Israeli plans to start a confrontation with Hezbollah, as part of their plans to weaken Iran’s Islamic republic.

Two years after the talks began, the prospect of success is far from clear, even once a deal is signed. In addition both Iran and the United States are adamant that it will only relate to the nuclear issue and the two countries do not intend to become allies. However, for both Saudi Arabia and Israel the prospects of an Iran free from sanctions remains a nightmare. That is why we can expect that forces connected to Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf states will intensify attacks against Shia mosques, Kurds, Druze and Shia /Alavi cities, in order to ‘encourage’ an Iranian military response. There will be those in Tehran who would welcome such an opportunity. The Iranian regime has survived because of crises, and the likely end of the stand-off over nuclear weapons is already creating fears amongst the Revolutionary Guards and conservative factions of the regime that their survival might be in danger if sanctions and the threat of foreign intervention are lifted for good .

This week it became clear that nuclear talks would be extended beyond the end of June deadline. Two days before, the Iranian foreign minister returned from Vienna to Iran for consultations – clearly the Iranian team did not believe the Austrian authorities’ reassurances that their hotels were free of computer bugs. On his return, the deadline was extended by seven days, yet a number of thorny issue remained unresolved.

According to the Geneva deal, Fordow, Iran’s fortified enrichment facility, will not be destroyed, but it will be decommissioned. The heavy water reactor at Arak will have its core removed, so that it will no longer produce such large quantities of plutonium as a by-product of its operations.

The P5+1 insist sanctions will be lifted gradually if and when the decommissioning takes place, while Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, wants them to be removed immediately. The question of how and when sanctions will be lifted remains unresolved. There are obvious reasons for these red lines. Everyone knows that the punitive sanctions imposed against Iran were part of ‘regime change’ and had little to do with the country’s nuclear programme.

In these last days and hours of the negotiations Iranian hardliners and Khamenei have made clear what the country’s other ‘red lines’ are: no inspections of military bases, no interviews with Iranian nuclear scientists. The inspection of military bases is potentially a more serious threat than sanctions, having nothing to do with the non-proliferation treaty. It represents an insult to Iran and can only have one purpose: the identification of military bases with a view to aerial bombing at a future date. This would have only one aim: regime change from above. The majority of the Iranian people want to see the back of the current regime, but they have seen the consequences of regime change from above in Iraq and Libya. They have seen how the failed state in Syria has paved the way for civil war and atrocities committed by jihadists. Contrary to the wishes of Saudi Arabia, Israel and the plethora of Iranian ‘regime change’ opposition groups, all such efforts only lead to the consolidation of the Islamic republic, convincing the Iranian people to settle for the bad for fear of something worse.

In the recent negotiations, France consistently represented the views of Saudi Arabia and Israel, so it was no surprise that at the start of the latest round of negotiations French foreign minister Laurent Fabius was intransigent in his insistence that Iran agrees to limit its research and development capacity and accepts rigorous inspections of various sites, including military sites, with the threat of an automatic return to sanctions if Iran fails to comply.

What the minister failed to mention is that last week France discussed aeronautical and nuclear (!) projects worth billions of euros with Saudi Arabia. Recent deals with the kingdom, and earlier in the year with Qatar, have been very positive for France’s balance of payment, so its lack of enthusiasm for a deal with Iran is not surprising.

A week is a long time in politics and even longer in Middle Eastern politics. The Iran nuclear negotiations might fail, paving the way for further sanctions and US military intervention. However, the threat of war and the current conflicts will persist even if the talks succeed. Saudi Arabia, the countries of the Persian Gulf, Turkey and Israel are in an unofficial alliance to make sure conflict continues in the region, with the aim of weakening Iran’s regional dominance. The consequence will be more atrocities and massacres committed by Islamic State and other Jihadi groups.

Yassamine Mather