UK foreign secretary William Hague was recently halted in his tracks by Parliament when he and Cameron were straining at the leash to assault Syria. So when he rose in the Commons to make a statement on the Iran nuke deal and bask in the glow of congratulation (see Hansard Column 23, 25 November) the House and the nation were aware that, if he’d had his way, there might have been nothing to celebrate.
Hague said the agreement had shown that pressure through sanctions coupled with a readiness to negotiate was the right policy. “For a long time, that has been the united approach of this country…”
Let’s hang on to that thought while noting that more MPs now seem willing to speak out and challenge the Government’s inexplicable blind-spot with regard to nuke-bristling Israel.
Sir Gerald Kaufman (Lab) called it an exceptionally important agreement. “Will the right hon. Gentleman point out to the Prime Minister of Israel, who yesterday said that nuclear weapons are the most dangerous weapons in the world — he should know because he has a stockpile of several hundred nuclear warheads and the missiles with which to deliver them — and who in addition refuses to sign the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, that any attempt to damage or attack the agreement in any way will be unacceptable and will be opposed?
Sir Menzies Campbell (LibDem) was also concerned about Netanyahu’s public response to the agreement, and asked what assessment the Foreign Secretary had made of the risk of Israel taking unilateral action that might undermine it.
To which Mr Hague simply replied that he would strongly discourage any country, including Israel, from seeking to undermine the agreement, and that he had seen no sign of any country doing so.
Yet, as he spoke, some senior US officials, if reports are to be believed, were already saying the Obama administration “is not fully committed to the conclusion of a final pact, under which economic sanctions would be completely lifted” http://www.ipsnews.net/2013/11/u-s-officials-hint-reservations-final-nuclear-deal/ . At a briefing in Geneva one was reported as saying: “In terms of the ‘end state’, we do not recognise a right for Iran to enrich uranium.” Another remarked: “We’ll see whether we can achieve an end state that allows for Iran to have peaceful nuclear energy.” It sounds as if America itself may scupper the deal somewhere along the line for its own tortured reasons.
Dr Julian Lewis (Conservative) reminded MPs that no such agreement would have been reached had the plan for an Anglo-American military attack on Syria gone ahead. “So while we are busy conferring praise on Governments past and present, can we at least have a pat on the back for Parliament for its role in preventing such an ill-considered move?”
This must have been acutely painful for Hague, who nevertheless replied: “I always want to pat Parliament on the back, even when I disagree with it, but I do not agree with my hon. Friend’s analysis. I agree — not with him, but with others — that the contemplation by the United States of military action produced a very important breakthrough on the dismantling of Syria’s chemical weapons.”
Jim Cunningham (Labour) also reminded Mr Hague that President Obama and the American Congress postponed a decision as a result of the UK Parliament reining in the Foreign Secretary. More importantly, he said, if it was sufficient to sit down with the Iranians why are we not facilitating talks on Syria?
Mr Hague replied that he had met the Syrian opposition in Istanbul and hosted the Friends of Syria core group in London to encourage their participation in a peace conference on 22 January. He wants to do everything he can to bring about a peaceful solution on Syria “just as we have on the Iranian nuclear programme”, but he didn’t say if he’d invite the key player, Bashar Assad.
Dr Matthew Offord (Conservative) wanted to know what reassurance the Secretary of State could give in view of the remark by Iran’s President Rouhani that, no matter what interpretations are put on it, “Iran’s right to enrichment has been recognised”?
Mr Hague gave a very odd answer. “The E3 plus 3 countries do not recognise a right to enrich.”
He went on at some length to explain the guts of the deal:
“In return for those commitments Iran will receive proportionate and limited sanctions relief from the United States and the European Union. For its part, the US will pause efforts to reduce crude oil sales to Iran’s oil customers, repatriate to Iran some of its oil revenue held abroad, suspend sanctions on the Iranian auto industry, allow licensing of safety-related repairs and inspections for certain Iranian airlines and establish a financial channel to facilitate humanitarian and legitimate trade, including for payments to international organisations and Iranians studying abroad.
“It is proposed that the EU and the US together will suspend sanctions on oil-related insurance and transport costs, which will allow the provision of such services to third states for the import of Iranian oil. We will also suspend the prohibition on the import, purchase or transport of Iranian petrochemical products and suspend sanctions on Iranian imports of gold and precious metals. But core sanctions on Iranian oil and gas will remain in place.
“It is intended that the EU will also increase by an agreed amount the authorisation thresholds for financial transactions for humanitarian and non-sanctioned trade with Iran. The EU’s Council of Ministers will be asked to adopt legislation necessary to amend those sanctions and the new provisions would then apply to all EU member states. The total value of the sanctions relief is estimated at $7 billion over the six-month period. There will be no new nuclear-related sanctions adopted by the UN, EU and US during that period.
“However, the bulk of international sanctions on Iran will remain in place. That includes the EU and US oil embargo, which restricts oil purchases from Iran globally, and sanctions on nuclear, military-related or ballistic missile-related goods and technology. It includes all frozen revenue and foreign exchange reserves held in accounts outside Iran and sanctions on many Iranian banks, including the Central Bank of Iran, which means all Iranian assets in the US and EU remain frozen, apart from the limited repatriation of revenue agreed under this agreement. Iranian leaders and key individuals and entities will still have their assets in the EU and US frozen and be banned from travelling to the EU and US, and tough financial measures, including a ban on using financial messaging services and transactions with European and US banks, also remain in place. Those sanctions will not be lifted until a comprehensive settlement is reached, and we will enforce them robustly. That ensures that Iran still has a powerful incentive to reach a comprehensive solution…”
“The $7 billion of sanctions relief is actually available to Iran over the six-month period once that period has begun, which we hope will be by the end of January. A good deal of the $7 billion involves the unfreezing of assets, so those assets will be unfrozen in stages. Iran will not therefore receive $7 billion on the first day, and then decide whether to implement its side of the agreement.
“It is also important to see that $7 billion in perspective. In January, Iran’s Oil Minister acknowledged that the fall in oil exports as a result of sanctions was costing Iran between $4 billion and $8 billion every month. Reports suggest that Iran currently has between $60 billion and $100 billion of assets frozen overseas that it cannot access. The $7 billion of relief is therefore a very small proportion of the total frozen assets and of the total effect of sanctions applied to Iran.”
Economic sanctions: are they moral, or even legal?
Hague has led the charge on oil sanctions and other measures to make life a misery for Iranians. But are he and his chums on safe legal ground?
The International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL) in a statement on 26 November 2011, said they were deeply concerned about the threats against Iran by Israel, the United States, and the United Kingdom. Referring to a report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), IADL stated that the threats by Israel, the US and the UK were unacceptable and dangerous not only for all the region but for the whole of humanity, and that Article 2.4 of UN Charter forbids not only use of force but also the threat of force in international relations. The right of defence does not include pre-emptive strikes.
The IADL also pointed out that while Israel was quick to denounce the possible possession of nuclear weapons by others, it illegally had possessed nuclear weapons for many years. The danger to world peace was so great as to require the global eradication of all nuclear weapons, and to immediately declare the Middle East a nuclear free zone and a zone free of all weapons of mass destruction, as required by UN Security Council resolution 687.
Furthermore, Article 33 states that “the parties to any dispute, the continuance of which is likely to endanger the maintenance of international peace and security, shall, first of all, seek a solution by negotiation, enquiry, mediation, conciliation, arbitration, judicial settlement, resort to regional agencies or arrangements, or other peaceful means…”
Economic ‘terror’ tactics such as the vicious sanctions deployed by Hague and friends – and the similar measures used by Britain and America 60 years ago to bring down the government of Dr Mossadeq and reinstall the hated Shah – are not part of the approved toolkit.
Remember the context
In early 2012 the US intelligence community was saying that Iran hadn’t got an active nuclear weapons programme, and Israeli intelligence agreed. The Director of the National Intelligence Agency, James Clapper, reported: “We assess Iran is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons… We do not know, however, if Iran will eventually decide to build nuclear weapons…”
Why has Hague been so focused on Iran when Israel is the one with a runaway, unsafeguarded nuclear weapons programme, a deranged leadership and a dreadful track record?
UN Security Council resolution 487 of 1981 called on Israel “urgently to place its nuclear facilities under IAEA safeguards”. Israel has been allowed to ignore it for 32 years. In 2009, the IAEA called on Israel to join the Non-Proliferation Treaty, open its nuclear facilities to inspection and place them under comprehensive IAEA safeguards. Israel still refuses to join or allow inspections.
The Zionist regime is reckoned to have up to 400 nuclear warheads at its disposal. It is the only state in the region that is not a party to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (Iran is). It has signed but not ratified the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty. As regards biological and chemical weapons, Israel has not signed the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention. It has signed but not ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention.
So Hague is kicking the wrong ass. He needs to propel the toe of his boot into the US-subsidized derrière of the Zionist entity. That’s where his “unprecedented” sanctions are need.
Negotiations in bad faith
In 2003 the Foreign Ministers of the UK, France and Germany visited Tehran for discussions with Iran on its nuclear programme. This of course was pre-Hague. In a statement issued at the time, the three EU states said they recognised the right of Iran to “enjoy peaceful use of nuclear energy in accordance with the NPT [Non-Proliferation Treaty]” – i.e. Iran had a right to uranium enrichment on its own soil like other parties to the NPT. This was repeated and confirmed at the Paris Agreement in 2004. Iran agreed “on a voluntary basis” to suspend all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities. The three EU states recognised the suspension as “a voluntary confidence building measure and not a legal obligation”.
However, proposals published by the UK, France and Germany the following year demanded that all enrichment and related activities on Iranian soil cease for good. Iran’s voluntary suspension of these activities was suddenly to become permanent. The trio’s earlier acceptance of Iran’s right to enjoy peaceful use of nuclear energy in accordance with the NPT had vanished into thin air. Henceforward Iran would be treated as a second-class party to the NPT, with fewer rights than the others.
Paul Flynn (Labour), in the wake of Hague’s statement this week, asked pointedly if it would be right for the Government to now approach Israel and ask for a reciprocal gesture, opening its nuclear facilities to international inspection in order to de-nuclearise the whole Middle East.
Mr Hague was evasive: “Politics is the art of the possible… and it has turned out that this agreement [i.e. with Iran] is possible. The hon. Gentleman is trying to lead me into something that it would probably not be possible for us to obtain.”
But sanctions, if pressed home with the vigour and ruthlessness exerted against Iran, should do nicely for Israel. People around the world are already applying their own sanctions because their weak politicians won’t act.