As soon as the Vienna agreement on Iran’s nuclear program was inked, The WorldPost asked the first president of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Abolhassan Bani-Sadr, for his analysis of what the deal means for Iran and the region.
WorldPost: Is this deal good for Iran?
Abolhassan Bani-Sadr: It is a capitulation to outside powers by the regime of the ayatollahs that has brought this fate upon the Iranian people.
The Vienna agreement on limiting Iran’s nuclear activities outlines the execution of conditions set out in the Lausanne agreement, signed in April 2015. It also contains four new points: a further five-year embargo on conventional weapons, an eight-year embargo on missiles, the “managed” inspection of military sites and the transparent declaration of Iran’s past and future nuclear activities (through the International Atomic Energy Agency).
Furthermore, the U.S. has effectively gained veto rights. According to the agreement, if any of the 5+1 countries become aware that Iran has violated the enrichment agreement, they can start a process of reinforcing sanctions. As it is not in Russia’s or China’s interest to do so, and as EU powers will not do so without American consent, in effect, the U.S. has gained the right to veto the agreement.
When the Iranian regime began its secret nuclear activities around 25 years ago, the goal was to make an atomic bomb. Yet from 2003 onward, this goal was replaced with the aim of creating nuclear fuel. Today, we see that while neither of these goals have been achieved, they have been used by the 5+1 to place Iran under their control. And, as a condition of the conventional arms embargo is military control, Iran can do nothing as its neighbors continue to take oil and gas from the Persian Gulf, Caspian Sea and shared fields. So far this has cost the country hundreds of billions of dollars.
If the regime had been honest about all its nuclear activities rather than keeping a façade of nuclear enrichment and shut down its entire program, the country could have had a normal status and the national rights of Iranians could have been recognized. Instead, Iranians are paying the price.
Iranian signatories and supporters of the agreement argue that it ends sanctions, diminishes the threat of military invasion and will lead to a rise in Iranian prosperity. But international sanctions and economic restrictions are still being imposed, and the country remains surrounded by military bases.
The agreement, therefore, is that Iran’s regime agrees that it will remain under control, under threat and restricted. Zarif, the foreign minister, has already compared the agreement with the 1828 Treaty of Turkmenchay (in which Iran lost most of the Caucasus to Russia), the 1919 agreement with Britain, which was a capitulation and the 1933 oil agreement with Britain, which extended Britain’s control of Iran’s oil until 1993.
Keeping Iran under a conventional arms sanction for five more years, a missiles [one] for eight, and the managed inspection of Iran’s military sites will assure Israel, Saudi Arabia and their Arab allies that the regime will not play an extensive military role in the region.
WorldPost: What are the implications of the Vienna agreement for Iran’s internal politics?
Bani-Sadr: It seems the regime has achieved its goal of preventing its own overthrow. From this perspective, any agreement which changes the position of the U.S. and the West from a policy of “regime change” to one of defending the regime is a good agreement. However, the removal of this external threat has a direct effect on power relations between factions within the regime.
During Ahmadinejad’s presidency, the regime declared that “nuclear energy is our absolute right.” Now, this slogan is being replaced with: “the final agreement is the demand of the Iranian people.” In other words, the price of suspending the sanctions -- for Iran to be held under control, threat and restriction -- is worth paying (although the regime does not tell Iranians that the sanctions will be suspended; instead, it tells them they will be lifted).
Although the Iranian people’s unbearable economic situation and the rapidly deteriorating environment are results of the regime’s destruction of the economy through mismanagement and corruption, people have believed that the situation is a result of the sanctions.Yet because they also know that Khamenei and his people who are signing the Vienna submission are also responsible for the status quo, the positions of both Rouhani and the reformists will be strengthened.
So far, the Iranian people have not played an active role, even though their actions and inactions have a direct effect on the political situation and the struggle between political elites. If people remain inactive, Khamenei will use the opportunity to eliminate those he calls the “leaders of sedition”: Hashemi Rafsanjani, Mir Hossein Mousavi, Mehdi Karubi and their colleagues.
If people become active, however, the balance of power will shift and become detrimental to the “principlists,” those who are obedient to the Khamenei. If the regime becomes incapable of controlling the people’s political activities, this might lead to further political opening. Therefore, if the relations between the people and the regime remain as they are, the final agreement will not create a model of democratization that people want to follow, much less to overthrow their despotic regimes for.
WorldPost: What does the Vienna agreement mean for Iran’s role in the region?
Bani-Sadr: The regime which has put Iran under control, threat and restriction no longer can be seen as anti-U.S. or anti-West. Just a few days ago, Khamenei stated that the struggle against “global arrogance” (meaning the U.S.) has no end. In the parliament, Iranian MPs continue to repeat the tired “death to the U.S.” slogan, trying to salvage the unsalvageable. The slogan is well past its expiry date.
If Khamenei replaces the current policy of secret relation and open confrontation with the U.S. with a normalization of relations between the two countries, a new equilibrium of power will emerge and prevent the alliances of Israel and Saudi Arabia from dominating the region. But this is not a strong possibility.
On the contrary, keeping Iran under a conventional arms sanction for five more years, a missiles [one] for eight and the managed inspection of Iran’s military sites will assure Israel, Saudi Arabia and their Arab allies that the regime will not play an extensive military role in regional countries like Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Palestine.
But the fact is that the Iranian regime is already involved in these wars. That raises an important question, which is whether the agreement provides new possibilities to find a solution based on cooperation between the regime and other countries in the region. Can they and outside powers agree to stop fighting each other, including through proxy wars, and stop the flow of fighters, arms and money to countries which are plagued by civil war?