Cold War II

Framework on Iran and nuclear – danger far from over

Nuclear danger not over yet
Nuclear danger.jpg

There was relief among international negotiators last week Thursday, 3 April, in Lausanne, Switzerland. when a “framework” deal on Iran’s nuclear programme was finally reached. The danger, however, is not over yet.

The framework is to bridge the next three months to the end of June for a detailed agreement to be negotiated. There are plenty of devils lurking in the details that will have to be addressed during the complex negotiations that now lay ahead.

In May last year we carried an article which stated: “A new Cold War is increasingly becoming an everyday reality and no country or company involved in the global economy can afford to ignore this developing new reality. Those who do not stay vigilant and on top of developments could easily get caught in the crossfire.”

Since then more evidence of what we dubbed “Cold War II,” has come to the fore and in January this year we wrote: “As 2015 gets going, the global geopolitical scene seems set for the full-blown return of the Cold War with a number of ‘theatres of conflict’ already active and casting dark clouds of uncertainty on many fronts.”

Last week, on the eve of the signing of the framework in Lausanne between Iran and the so-called P5+1 powers (the US, Russia, Britain, France, Germany, and China), The Telegraph, posing the question Are we on the cusp of a new nuclear weapons age?, wrote: “Now, however, the nuclear sands are shifting under our feet from North America to Asia Pacific.”

One of the side-effects of the present fixation with the nuclear deal with Iran is that it pushes into the background some of the other dangerous ‘theatres’ of the developing Cold War, which like its first manifestation, also has the ever-present dark cloud of a possible nuclear conflict hanging over it.

Another, very much related weakness of the framework is that it was negotiated largely in isolation from other serious strategic concerns in the Middle-Eastern region.

In another article, during the course of the Lausanne negotiations, The Telegraph for instance warned: “Israel and the Arab powers could respond by escalating their proxy wars against Iran ...”; and “Iran, for its part, ... will ensure that the Shia Islamic Republic remains a rising power, determined to reshape the entire Middle East in its own image.”

In this scenario, it should not be forgotten that among the countries involved, Israel has 80 nuclear warheads, deliverable with great precision and that the United Arab Emirates and Jordan are creating the basis for civil (mostly energy-related) nuclear programmes that they may choose to accelerate. Saudi Arabia has in the past warned that it might establish a nuclear weapons capacity if it feels threatened by Iran.

As it is, the countries of the Persian Gulf have been watching the talks with Iran with apprehension and even alarm. Their concerns are not so much about nuclear weapons but about what The Telegraph describes as “their conviction that Iranian power has ineluctably grown over the past decade, in part thanks to American fecklessness and timidity. They view the emerging deal as unduly generous to Tehran and therefore likely either to collapse or fall prey to Iranian cheating.”

In reaction to the Lausanne deal The Washington Post wrote: “Given the months of hard negotiations ahead, the self-congratulatory tone of President Obama’s speech announcing the agreement was extremely premature. ‘Depending on what we learn about critical details,’ says professor Peter Feaver of Duke University, ‘this is not spiking in the end zone. It is spiking on the 5-yard line.’

“A number of issues seem murky. What becomes of all the fissile material Iran has apparently agreed to export? What is done with the decommissioned centrifuges and infrastructure to make sure they can’t be easily reinstalled during a breakout attempt? What is the pace and ordering of sanctions relief by the United States, the European Union and the United Nations? How fully will Iran be required to account for past military dimensions of its nuclear programs?

“But the largest question will not be answered by the next stage of nuclear negotiations. Will this agreement give the Iranian regime cover for what it is currently doing in the Middle East — actively spreading its influence and threatening our allies? Negotiations on the nuclear issue have taken place in isolation from the ballistic missile issue, the terrorism issue and the regional destabilization issue.” (Our emphasis.)

As Edward Wastnidge puts it in an article for The Conversation: “The successful conclusion of the talks (in Lausanne) has predictably left the other regional powers in the Middle East nervous that their one-time guarantor of security (the US) will now begin to work more closely with Iran on wider regional issues.”

Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu, reacting to the news of the framework said in a statement: “A deal based on this framework would threaten the survival of Israel.”

Elsewhere on the globe  

Meanwhile the ‘nuclear card’ is regaining prominence in other regions worldwide:

  • In Moscow, nuclear weapons are regaining prominence with, among other things threats to deploy such weapons into the Crimea or use them in response to any movement of Nato forces into the Baltic states, in typical Cold War-like posturing;
  •  Washington itself is spending $8 billion to extend the life of its air-dropped bombs, while American military strategists continue to view nuclear weapons as useful, even indispensable, in a wide range of military scenarios, such as a US-China war that breaks out over Taiwan or a North Korean invasion of the South; and
  • In Europe five countries, Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, and Turkey host 200 Nato tactical nuclear weapons.

In the bigger scheme of things the Lausanne framework deal does not seem to add up to all that much and brings all sorts of complications of its own.

by Piet Coetzer

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