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From The Socialist newspaper, 27 November 2013

Iran interim nuclear deal reflects changed world relations

The interim nuclear deal between Iran, the US, and other world powers has grabbed the world's attention.

To provide the context for this development, the Socialist publishes a short extract from an article written for the December issue of Socialism Today, the Socialist Party's magazine.

The limits of US power in the Middle East are assessed by Judy Beishon from the International Secretariat of the Committee for a Workers' International (the CWI is the world socialist organisation to which the Socialist Party is affiliated).

The shift towards negotiations with Syria helped open the way to talks with Iran over its nuclear industry, the first involving the US and Iran since 1979, which quite quickly led to a 'landmark' interim deal.

Iran's nuclear programme will be restricted for six months and sanctions reduced in return.

The 2005 election of the hardline Iranian president Ahmadinejad was partly a repercussion of US president George W Bush's inclusion of Iran in an "axis of evil".

The departure from Ahmadinejad's policies of the new president, Hassan Rouhani, does not indicate a fundamental change in the nature of the repressive regime.

But Rouhani's election and approach have reflected a strong desire by the Iranian masses to end the deprivations blamed primarily on western imposed sanctions, and recognition by a layer of the ruling clerics that they need to ease censorship and sanctions in order to head off revolt from below.

Inflation is an unbearable 40%, poverty is rising and the economy is shrinking. Obama being US president and flailing about for solutions for Syria was part of the jigsaw that enabled Rouhani to enter into talks.

As well as wanting the sanctions lifted, Iran has expressed willingness to help with talks to concoct a deal in Syria, probably partly motivated by the fact that assisting Assad is a strain on Iran's budget.

Obama, on his part, will be hoping that following the myriad of setbacks for US imperialism in the Middle East, he can at least oversee a new departure in relations with Iran, gain kudos from it in his final term of office and open a door to Iran using its influence in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon in a conciliatory manner.

But as fast as the US tries to open this new door, some others shut in its face as outrage breaks out from regimes that see Iran as a bitter enemy.

The stakes are high; if at any stage Iran is suspected of becoming closer to making a nuclear bomb, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Egypt will want to follow suit.

A BBC Newsnight programme on 6 November suggested that Saudi Arabia has already made plans to receive nuclear weapons from Pakistan if it believes it necessary. Further negotiations with Iran may bring about a final deal.

Critics

However there are plenty of leading Republicans and Democrats in the US who are critical of the interim deal, with some adamantly opposed to concessions for as long as Iran has any nuclear industry.

They see a nuclear Iran as a much greater threat to US and nuclear-armed Israeli interests than Assad's non-nuclear Syria.

In Iran too there are clerics in the elite who are opposed to making the necessary concessions for a final deal to be reached.

Obama's overtures to Iran were met with unrelenting outrage from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who went into open conflict with the US administration, arguing that no concessions should be given to Iran while it still enriches uranium. He condemned the interim deal as a "historic mistake".

As Iran says it won't give up its right to enrich, there is no middle ground between it and Netanyahu's position at present.

Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman half-heartedly tried to reduce tensions by saying in November that "Israel's relations with the United States are a cornerstone and without them we cannot make our way in the current global climate", but he also warned in the same month that while "the ties with the US are continually deteriorating", Israel must "seek other allies with common interests."

Israel

Netanyahu has often stated that he will not allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons. His predecessors launched 'pre-emptive' missile strikes on the Osirak reactor in Iraq in 1981 and a Syrian site in 2007 and more recently test flights have been carried out with Iran in mind.

If Netanyahu's government at some stage decides to strike Iran unilaterally, Isreal doesn't have the bunker busting bombs that the US has and it would face even greater isolation internationally than it already does.

Going ahead would strain relations with the US further and indicate a corresponding loss of US influence.

Iran and Hezbollah could retaliate against oil supply routes, US bases or Israel itself, widening out the conflict considerably.

There are voices within the Israeli ruling class urging their government to veer away from pursuing 'reckless' policies regarding Iran and the Palestinian territories.

Nevertheless, although now even more problematic for him in the short term, it can't be ruled out that Netanyahu will eventually order an attack.

This is despite the fact that neither military strikes nor an international deal can guarantee to stop the Iranian elite from making nuclear bombs in the long run. Strikes could even spur them on to do so.

The Saudi monarchy has common cause with its enemy regime Israel in wanting to stop concessions to Iran.

Saudi Arabia is also furious with the US on its failure to strike Assad and step up assistance for some of the Syrian rebel forces.

It has threatened to withdraw cooperation with the US regarding its own financing of Syrian militias and turned down a seat on the UN security council in October, citing that the UN had not stopped the Syrian government from using chemical weapons or found a solution to the Palestinian cause, among other condemnations.

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