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Is Iran Now Under the Tutelage of the Six World Powers?

24 July 2015

By Amir Taheri

When talks between Iran and the P5+1 group led by the US started two years ago the stated objective was to prevent Tehran from acquiring the means of building nuclear weapons in exchange for the lifting of sanctions imposed by Washington, the United Nations, and the European Union.

This week, the talks produced a quite different outcome.

The six powers settled for minor changes in Iran's nuclear program in the hope of delaying the making of a bomb by Tehran for eight to 10 years.

In other words the nuclear program remains largely intact.

At the same time the issue of lifting the sanctions was also fudged through a complicated procedure that would see most of them fully or partly maintained for up to 15 years.

Let's sum up: The six powers didn't get what they wanted on the nuclear issue. And Iran didn't get what it wanted on sanctions.

Instead, a third thing happened.

Iran agreed to put itself under a form of tutelage exercised by the six powers with the blessings of the United Nations.

The "deal," unveiled with great fanfare in Vienna, spells out the modalities of that tutelage in a 159-page document designed to camouflage reality.

The document uses long convoluted lawyerly sentences sometimes running into more than 180 words. (This does not beat Marcel Proust's record with a single sentence running into 492 words!)

Under the "deal" Iran will be treated like a criminal put under probation with periodical assessments by the police.

To be sure, Iran did violate the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and admitted having done so. Iran also cheated the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on several occasions, and again admitted it.

The NPT and the IAEA have well-established rules for dealing with that kind of violation and cheating. However, those rules do not include putting the culprit under tutelage as is being done with Iran.

There have been several cases of violations and cheatings by other countries, including Germany and South Korea. In none of those cases the culprit was subjected to punishment disproportionate to the "crime" as is the case with Iran.

In Iran's case, however, the "crime" is used as an excuse for the six powers to control large chunks of the Iranian economy, its trade, industry, and, by extension, foreign policies.

This is done through a number of stratagems.

To start with, by keeping the Iranian "dossier" open for at least 15 years a message is sent to the whole world that Iran is not a "normal member" of the international community.

Who would wish to invest in a country that lives under the Damocles sword of "snap-back" sanctions and pariah-status for a generation?

Next, the six powers, acting as judge, jury and executioner, set up a commission to exercise oversight on Iran. That commission will meet every two years or earlier to assess the performance of the "criminal" under probation.

The commission has a veto with regard to 32 branches of Iranian industry and services, including oil, petrochemicals, aviation, automobile, banking, insurance, and shipping.

More broadly, the tutelage commission could intervene in all aspects of Iran's foreign trade with the excuse of preventing Tehran from acquiring "dual use" items.

For at least five years, the six powers will also decide what kind of weapons Iran could buy.

More importantly, the six powers decide how much of Iran' own oil income Iran could spend and on what. US President Barack Obama and his French counterpart François Hollande have publicly stated that Iran would not be allowed to spend as it pleases. The six powers commission may sign a check that goes to Qassem Suleimani but would not allow Suleimani to sign checks for Hassan Nasrallah.

In every case, of course, Iran could protest.

But its protest will also go to the six-power commission where decisions must be taken with a two-third majority. It is unlikely that the four Western powers on the commission, the US, France and Germany, will break ranks to please Iran. At the same time, Russia and China, sympathetic to Iran because of their own problems with the West, would be unable to do the mullahs a favor.

The so-called "deal" does not envisage mechanisms for impartial arbitration.

The six-power cabal even goes into details of micromanaging parts of Iran's policies in a range of fields, including a veto on which Iranian officials, military chiefs, scholars, scientists, and businessmen could travel abroad and for what purpose.

It may sound a bit exaggerated but the Vienna "deal" means that it is the six-power cabal and not the "Supreme Guide" Ali Khamenei that would have the last world (fasl al-khitab) on important aspects of the Iranian policy. For example, the "Supreme Guide" cannot lift the travel ban on Gen. Suleimani; but the six-power cabal can.

Having treated a great nation like a common criminal, the six powers try to reassure the rest of the world that the punishment meted out to Iran is exceptional and should not become a precedent. They declare that in all other cases, nations violating the NPT would be dealt with under the rules of the treaty and not by an ad hoc group of big powers acting like a posse in Western movies.

Unless the mullahs secretly plan to ignore the "deal" as soon as world attention is diverted to other things, the scheme worked out in Vienna represents a humiliating chapter in Iran's history. It could be described as a surrender that took two years to pull off. This view is shared by many in Iran, including some within the Khomeinist regime and, even, inside the negotiating team led by Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. Those suffering from the "humiliation" are known by their silence about what Rouhani is trying to market as "Islam's greatest diplomatic history." In Iran, people know who cheered and who didn't.

And, at the time of this writing, even Khamenei has refused to endorse a "deal" that, again, unless he intends to cheat on it, knows will damage Iran's independence and sovereignty.

The Vienna text is worse than the deal offered to Iran in talks with the P5+1 in Almaty, Kazakhstan, in February 2013. Iranian demagogues have imitated their Greek counterparts under Alexis Tsipras who rejected a bad deal before swallowing an even worse one.

Zarif, the man who led the Iranian negotiating team, is crowing about the recognition of Iran's right to enrich uranium up to 3.67 percent. The truth, however, is that every nation has the right to enrich uranium.

Zarif sets a precedent for Iran needing to secure the approval of the six-power posse before it is "allowed" to exercise its rights.

Zarif has been suggested for a Nobel Peace Prize and may get it. His critics claim that if he gets the prize it would be for capitulation, not peace. There are other examples of Nobels granted for capitulation, notably Yasser Arafat.

However, to blame everything on Zarif's naiveté and lack of experience is unjust.

In the Khomeinist system, ministers and even presidents are often actors playing those roles. Real decisions are taken by a "deep state," a network of military–security and clerical circles operating around the "Supreme Guide."

Apologists of the "deal" recall that the late Ruhallah Khomeini, the ayatollah who founded the regime, also drunk a "chalice of poison" when he accepted to end the war with Iraq in 1988.

That is not a fair comparison.

In 1988 all that Khomeini did was to shut his big mouth about "Going to Jerusalem via Karbala," and stop the butchery of the war. He didn't put any aspect of Iranian policy under foreign tutelage.

The Vienna "deal" was unveiled in Hotel Coburg which used to be a castle and often used as a military headquarters.

In 1683, it was the headquarters of six Christian princes, led by the King of Poland, who defeated the Ottomans and stopped Islam's further expansion in Europe.

Amir Taheri was born in Ahvaz, southwest Iran, and educated in Tehran, London and Paris. He was Executive Editor-in-Chief of the daily Kayhan in Iran (1972-79). In 1980-84, he was Middle East Editor for the Sunday Times. In 1984-92, he served as member of the Executive Board of the International Press Institute (IPI). Between 1980 and 2004, he was a contributor to the International Herald Tribune. He has written for the Wall Street Journal, the New York Post, the New York Times, the London Times, the French magazine Politique Internationale, and the German weekly Focus. Between 1989 and 2005, he was editorial writer for the German daily Die Welt. Taheri has published 11 books, some of which have been translated into 20 languages. He has been a columnist for Asharq Alawsat since 1987. Taheri's latest book "The Persian Night" is published by Encounter Books in London and New York.  


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