Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Aftermath of nuclear deal in Iran

  • Print

What will the Middle East look like after Iran and the great powers that are negotiating over Iran's alleged nuclear weapons ambitions -- the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany (P5+1) -- sign a deal that ends the confrontation? It's time to ask the question, because there is going to be a deal.

It didn't get signed in Geneva last weekend, but it came close. The only foreign minister at the Geneva talks on Friday was Mohammad Javad Zarif of Iran, but progress was so rapid that by Saturday almost all the foreign ministers of the "P5+1" -- American, British, French, German and Russian -- dropped whatever they were doing and flew in for the grand finale. Only the Chinese foreign minister was absent.

The grand finale has been postponed. There were just too many details to clear up in a single weekend and a couple of sticking points that have yet to be resolved. But the date for the next meeting has already been set for Wednesday and nobody went away angry. "We are all on the same wavelength," said Zarif. "There is a deal on the table and it can be done," said British Foreign Secretary William Hague.

There are "still some gaps" between Iran and some of the other countries present, Hague said, but "they are narrow gaps. You asked what went wrong. I would say that a great deal went right." Even French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, the one who apparently dropped a last-minute spanner in the works, said "we are not far from a agreement with the Iranians, although we are not there yet."

Fabius's demands were that the reactor in Arak, now nearing completion, should never be activated, as it would produce plutonium as a byproduct, and Iran's store of uranium enriched to medium level (20 per cent pure) should be brought back down to five per cent to move it farther away from weapons-grade (90 per cent). Introduced into the talks at a late stage, his demands brought the proceedings to a temporary halt.

All the other Western powers closed ranks and insisted these were joint demands, but they were not part of the original draft agreement. Speculation was rife France was acting on behalf of its customers (for French weapons) on the Arab side of the Gulf, notably in the United Arab Emirates, who view the deal under discussion with just as much horror as Israel does. But France can only delay things: The deal is going to happen.

One immediate consequence of the deal will be that Israel has to stop threatening to attack Iran. The threat was always 90 per cent bluff -- Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's own military chiefs would probably refuse to obey him if he ordered such an attack without American support -- but now it will be simply ridiculous. Which will swing the spotlight back to Israel's treatment of the Palestinians.

Iran's economic isolation will also end, although it may take several years to unwind all the economic sanctions. The gradual return of prosperity in Iran will make the current Islamic regime more secure (which may be the main reason the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, authorized newly elected President Hassan Rouhani to negotiate the nuclear deal and end the confrontation.)

But the big question is whether a nuclear deal with Iran will cool the rapidly intensifying Sunni-Shia conflict that threatens to suck in the whole of the Fertile Crescent and the Arabian Peninsula. The answer, alas, is probably not.

Iran is the sole Shia great power, so it is inevitably the focus of the fears of Sunni Arabs and the hopes of Shia Arabs. Moreover, given Turkey's semi-detached relationship with the region, Iran is in practical terms the greatest power in the entire Middle East.

For the past decade, Iran has been greatly weakened by the arms and trade embargoes the West imposed because of the nuclear issue. Once those embargoes are removed, Iran will regain much of its former strength. This is already causing great anxiety in the Sunni Arab countries, especially those that face it across the Gulf.

Even quite experienced people in Washington and other Western capitals don't realize the extent to which the Sunni Arab countries of the Middle East thought their close ties with the Western great powers gave them a kind of guarantee against Shia power -- and how betrayed they feel now that they think that guarantee is being withdrawn.

Sunnis outnumber Shias almost 10-to-one in the Islamic world as a whole, but in the smaller world that stretches from Iran and Turkey to Palestine and Yemen, the "Middle East," Shias make up more than a third of the population. The war is already hot and quite openly sectarian in Syria and in Iraq. In many other places (Lebanon, Bahrain, Yemen) it is bubbling just underneath the surface. It will get worse before it gets better.

Gwynne Dyer is an independent journalist whose articles are published in 45 countries.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 14, 2013 A13

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Bombers look to snap two game slide vs. Montreal

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A Great Horned Owl that was caught up in some soccer nets in Shamrock Park in Southdale on November 16th was rehabilitated and returned to the the city park behind Shamrock School and released this afternoon. Sequence of the release. December 4, 2012  BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
  • A Canada Goose cools off in a water pond Monday afternoon at Brookside Cemetary- See Bryksa’s Goose a day Challenge– Day 27-June 25, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Did you suffer any damages from Thursday's storm?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google