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The Iran Nuclear Deal…One Year Later: Interview with Ibrahim Kazerooni and Rob Prince. KGNU, Boulder. “Hemispheres Program.” Tues, August, 30, 2016. Part One

August 31, 2016
Here in the United States the horror of it all is often ignored. Here a barefooted young man, a member of the 'Baseej' militia, cries while sitting at a broken caterpillar track at the Talaiye war front. Some of the war pilgrims walk barefoot to the front lines in order not to step on any possible grave of a dead soldier with their boots. Every year hundreds of thousand Iranians visit the fronts of the Iran -Iraq war (1980-1988) during their New Year (Noruz) holiday, in the last week of March. This trip is called ' Rahian-e Noor', or, Caravan of Light. Coming August 2008 it will be 20 years ago that a ceasefire between the two countries was signed. The death toll, overall, was an estimated 1 million for Iran and 250,000-500,000 for Iraq. During that war the United States armed Iraq hoping that the two Middle East nations would destroy one another. Unable to destroy the Islamic Revolution in Iran itself, the United States egged on Saddam Hussein to try to do it 

Here in the United States the horror of it all is often ignored. Every year hundreds of thousand Iranians visit the fronts of the Iran -Iraq war (1980-1988) during their New Year (Noruz) holiday, in the last week of March. This trip is called ‘ Rahian-e Noor’, or, Caravan of Light. In August 2018 it will be 30 years ago that a ceasefire between the two countries was signed. The death toll, overall, was an estimated 1 million for Iran and 250,000-500,000 for Iraq. During that war the United States armed Iraq hoping that the two Middle East nations would destroy one another.

Jim Nelson: I’m just going to give a brief introduction, highlighting the topics we’ll be discussing this evening. Later in the program we’ll be looking at the events in Yemen, a somewhat neglected subject in the mainstream media although not on this program. Recently, it has returned to the news, not as much as it should be. Before that we’ll look at Syria and Turkey and the current issues involved, the recent Turkish military incursion into northern Syria, included. But first we’re going to look at the Iran Nuclear Deal, now a year after it was finalized.

Rob Prince: Introduction

Tonight we want to discuss a number of recent events, as usual, try to put them into historical perspective and give some sense as to where the region seems to be heading.

As we went into the dynamics of the Turkish coup last month, we want to begin by stepping back a moment and look at what has transpired – how the United States, the European Union, Iran, Russia have – or have not – kept their parts of what is mistakenly referred to as “the Iran Nuclear Deal” – mistakenly because it not only concerned Iran’s nuclear program but also the lifting of economic embargos against that the country

We’ll return to the Turkish events shortly thereafter and address a number of questions:

– A month later, what are the consequences of the so-called Turkish coup – what has happened to all those people who were purged?

– Is Turkey involved in what might be called “a geo-political shift towards Iran and Russia, or to the contrary is its Syrian policy essentially “on course” with US – NATO plans?

Finally we’ll look at the failure of the Saudi war against Yemen and the current possibilites for resolving that conflict

Iran Nuclear Deal:

Concerning what is known as “the Iran Nuclear Deal” but the formal title of which is “ Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action” between Iran and the 5 permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany (plus the E.U) – also known as the P5+1 (Germany) or +2 if the E.U. as a whole is also included, ie, it was far more than an agreement between the United States and Iran as is often portrayed here in the US media

That agreement helps with an understanding of the current situation in Syria and Yemen, where, in both cases, the situation on the ground is not going well at all for the United States and its allies. Our starting point in these programs is that these events, whether it’s Tunisia, Syria, Yemen, wherever, are connected and that there is an overall regional aapproach, strategy that we are constantly probing and trying to interpret to KGNU listeners

Jim Nelson: I think, Rob, one of the things that KGNU listeners appreciate is not only those connections that you mention – and the reminder that what we call the “Iran Nuclear Deal” gives the impression that the agreement was just between the United States and Iran but it is useful just to remind us who signed on to that agreement – it jogs our memory. Then there is the historical outlook that both of you give to the material, gives the listeners a welcomed perspective. For example, if the subject of the program is Saudi Arabia or Yemen, you give a historical analysis that is useful. Both of you have done this regularly over the six years we’ve done the program.

Rob Prince:  It’s certainly true that without context it’s hard to follow the many players. We do our best to insure that what we discuss on the air is accurate. A good deal of research and discussion goes into each program. Time has a way of testing the legitimacy of our ideas…and so far I think that our record hasn’t been too bad.

Returning to the topic:

– Indeed one can say that, although the situation remains serious, that US-NATO strategy in Syria has largely failed and the U.S. goal of partitioning Syria into three enclaves is, despite the current Turkish incursion, disintegrating.

– Likewise, the U.S. supported Saudi war in Yemen – now responsible for at least 6500 deaths; the economic blockade of the country, combined with Saudi targeting of infrastruce, has resulted in mass starvation which is effecting more than half of the population and probably responsible for many more deaths than the bombs.

Also, half way into the program, Ibrahim has to leave so we’ll more or less divide the program with him doing the first half hour and me the second…

So…with that introduction, let me ask Ibrahim…

In the light the above, Ibrahim, …when it was signed a year ago, there were indications that as a result of the Iran nuclear agreement, that U.S-Iranian hostility might be reduced, that with sanctions lifted, that the Iran would return to being a full player in the international economic system and that together with other countries, Iran and the United States would move from an antagonistic to a more cooperative relationship visavis some of the major Middle East – Central Asia problems, ie, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, maybe even Israel-Palestine.

Ibrahim – in some ways, the deal has held, in others no? Can you elaborate

Ibrahim Kazerooni: Good evening to everyone.

To begin with I think we should touch on the Turkish issue, because as was just mentioned, the different issues in the Middle East are inter-connected. Whether we believe that the Turkish coup was a false flag operation or one that was too ill-prepared – these are academic questions at this point. But one thing is quite clear that the Turks have been part of what I call “a triangular alliance” that under the auspices of the United States planned for a unique economic structure in the Middle East targeting Russia, China and Iran. The neo-cons in Washington see Syria as key to the implementation of this plan which is literally controlling the region, but primarily is drawing or constructing some kind of a wall around Russia and ultimately China and Iran.

When the nuclear deal came and was signed – I remember mentioning it at that time – any time that it comes to signing an agreement I admit to being a little bit cynical when it comes to the United States honoring its part. As you said, Rob, our assessment of the situation was that in time we would see whether or not the United States would fulfill its obligation. Immediately after the signing of the treaty we began seeing rumbling within the Congress regarding continuing the embargo and adding on new economic sanctions against Iran – in violation of the treaty. Iran took it all with a grain of salt hoping that the major goals of the agreement would be satisfied – which as you mentioned – that would take place was that the United States would assist the readmission of Iran into the global economic space, creating the impetus for Iran to rejoin the global economy.

Unfortunately not only has the United States not lifted any of the sanctions it has imposed upon Iran but they added a few others on top of the already existing ones. The Obama Administration even went to court to freeze extra money that, according to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, was supposed to be delivered to Iran out of those frozen Iranian funds held in the United States. At the same time, Washington began putting pressure on European banks and institutions not to open up to Iran economically or to provide credit or space for Iranians to join.

Rob Prince: Just briefly,after he had come out and supported the agreement at the last moment before it came before the U.S. Senate, Colorado’s Senator Michael Bennet was one of the leaders of the move to undercut the agreement introduced legislation, as the agreement was being signed, to destabilize it.

Ibrahim Kazerooni: Yes, so there were a number of other Senators who signed this – the list was there on Google, Facebook.

This (the Americans) not honoring their part of the agreement has infuriated Iran and has hardened its position. Now in Iran we are beginning to even hear talk of scrapping the whole thing. On the other hand, one thing that has come out of this agreement is that China, Russia and a few other countries have lost their fear American economic retaliation in the form of embargoes or financial penalization for engaging Iran economically anymore. They are opening up economic relations with Iran; Iran has become a major player in a number of institutions in what might be called “Eastern-centered (Russia-Central Asia-China) economic structures in which Iran is playing a growing role.

But when it comes to a number of countries in the region that the United States has been attempting to dictate terms to, unfortunately for the United States itself, its failure to honor the agreement has somewhat backfired. Washington nor its allies did not anticipate that the Iranians would harden their position and actively consolidate improved economic relations with the Russians, Chinese and others, and literally block any attempt by the west, particularly the United States, to dictate their terms in the region, particularly in the case of Syria.

Blue Line - Plan rejected by Syria in 2009. Red Line - Plan agreed to by Syria in 2011

Blue Line – Plan rejected by Syria in 2009. Red Line – Plan agreed to by Syria in 2011

Pipeline Politics:

To understand how this happened we need to go back a little bit in time.

I mentioned early that the Turks had been part of a triangular that planned for a unique economic structure in the Middle East. The neo-cons thought that the implementation of this plan required both controlling the region and pacifying and/or regime change in Syria. In 2009 a meeting took place in Syria in which representatives from Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey at the time went to the Syrian regime and asked for permission to build a natural gas pipeline from Qatar to pass through Syria.

If you remember, at that time there was a heated debate between Russia, Ukraine and other European countries regarding the increase in the price that Russia was asking for the sale of its natural gas. The Qataris, Saudis and Turks wanted to circumvent the sale of natural gas to Europe by bringing this gas from Qatar (and including Saudi natural gas as well) through Syria, on to Turkey, thus circumventing Russia.

Syria rejected the offer because of its relations with the Russian natural gas company, Gasprom. A few years later, in June, 2011, a pact with Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Russia was announced in which a major pipeline from Iran would be built through Iraq, Syria and then fork into Lebanon. The impact of this proposal is to literally economically strengthen the region whose economic development has been largely ignored and suffers from stagnation.

The Iran, Iraq, Russia, Syrian, Lebanese pipeline plan nothing short of infuriated the Saudis, Turks and the Qataris because now a new, alternative alliance came together to come up with exactly the same plan, but this by their enemies (Russia, Iran), rather than seeing their own plan realized. And the rest is history, the Syrian crisis started.

Obama Administration Plan For Syria: Partition

During this period the United States supported various proposals; if our listeners remembered, we talked about the Doha Protocol a few years ago in which the main goal among its 13 points was clearly for the division of Syria into enclaves the result of which would weaken the central government, which would allow the Qatar-Saudi-Turkish gas pipeline to go through a weakened Syria. But the United States was unable to implement what amounts to Syria’s partition.

The way that Kerry structured the [Syrian] plan, all these enclaves would be treated as federal estates which literally means bringing in United Nations observers to observe and control the separation of borders with no longer a Syrian central government. It is a plan to dissolve the Syrian central government and the unique unity of the Syrian state. The enclaves would now essentially become different countries under the influence of various mercenaries and terrorist organizations.

Last month, in our discussion on `Hemispheres’ we mentioned the comments of a London-based Syrian moderate political opposition leader commented on the more recent, new proposal that the United States tabled to Russia Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov that dispenses with all the former talk about “democracy”, “elections” and everything else but retains the fundamental program of the Doha Agreement, which is dividing Syria into enclaves: in the north under Turkish influence; in the south an enclave under joint Jordanian and Israeli influence; the east to be decided and a little bit of land at the center to be given to Bashar al Assad.

No democracy, no election, nothing.

The way that Kerry structured the [Syrian] plan, all these enclaves would be treated as federal estates which literally means bringing in United Nations observers to observe and control the separation of borders with no longer a Syrian central government. It is a plan to dissolve the Syrian central government and the unique unity of the Syrian state. The enclaves would now essentially become different countries under the influence of various mercenaries and terrorist organizations.

This plan was rejected by Lavrov.

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