Regarding the agreement reached between the five nuclear powers plus Germany with the Iranian government so that sanctions may be lifted from the latter with a commitment to not continue enriching uranium or to advance in the construction of nuclear weapons, we have been in contact with the Iranian Political Scientist, Nazanin Armanian, who is a professor at Spain’s National University of Distance Education, and currently lives in Barcelona.
Through a phone interview we could share her impressions of this subject and the present moment in the Middle East with the audience of the radio show “En La Oreja” in Ecuador.
ELO: Nazanin, could you tell about the impact that this agreement has? How do you see it?
NA: It’s a great step for reducing tensions, above all. Iran was practically isolated in the society of nations, in the international community. There is a military fence, an economic boycott, but there was also a political and diplomatic boycott of Iran. So, the first effect of this agreement, or pre-agreement, has been to break the political and diplomatic isolation of Iran. This means that countries can talk to Iran, Iran can talk to the USA and other powers to resolve existing conflicts in a peaceful way.
I think it’s important to be able to measure the impact from how the Iranian population has been living throughout this period of sanctions and blockade. From here you can make another reading of the significance and value of this advance.
The blockade has been really hard, and continues to be so for the Iranian people because it prevents foreign investment in Iran, it prevents movement of Iranian money. Iran can’t receive money from the sale of oil rather Iran receives goods in return which it often doesn’t need. So the economic fence around Iran has been very hard. It has literally strangled the Iranian economy and left almost 12 million people unemployed. There is a lot of anxiety in the Iranian market at all time because there was the threat of war after sanctions came, so not only has there been no investment, but Iranian investors have gone to invest in other countries of the Persian Gulf, for example. Not even cancer drugs are reaching Iran. To this situation was added a few months ago a drop in the price of oil which has been a plot by the USA and Saudi Arabia with the aim of destroying the economy of oil-producing countries; especially Russia, Iran, Venezuela, and also Ecuador, which is a producer and exporter of oil. So, these two factors have damaged the Iranian economy a lot and have been some of the reasons that have led Iran to the negotiating table.
ELO: In a previous interview you said that it has been known forever that Iran was not developing anything that was connected to nuclear weapons and even so it was blockaded, everything you referred to took place in order to weaken Iran. Why is there so much interest in weakening Iran?
NA: According to 16 US intelligence agencies plus Mossad, so, 17 international agencies, for sure also the British, the Germans and the French, they have been informing their governments since 2003 that Iran has not been developing a nuclear programme for military purposes. Maybe they were thinking about it before, but since 2003 they haven’t been thinking to develop that programme. Therefore, the USA has known since then.
So what happened? US foreign policy in the Persian Gulf, in the Middle East is tied to Israel and Saudi Arabia which are the two lobbies in the USA which hold the votes and opinions of the Senators and Congressmen and women. When those reports reached the government, they should have had no choice but to lift sanctions, but they didn’t do it because there’s a doctrine which is Henry Kissinger’s doctrine, the great US ideologist, called “dual containment” and according to this, the economic, political, social, scientific and military development of Iraq and Iran must be contained to the benefit of Israel.
The doctrine was developed in the 80s and all the subsequent events corroborate the fact that everything that Kissinger said was implemented. They started with a brutal economic blockade of Iraq for 12 years, which left nearly 2 million dead, half a million of whom were children, and then they destroyed Iraq. Now there’s a mountain of rubble. Iraq no longer exists.
Now it’s the turn of Iran to be contained and to be contained so that it’s no longer a strong country, a powerful country. Bearing in mind that Iran is a very big country, a country of almost 80 million people, has the largest gas reserves on the planet, the third largest oil reserves in the world, which if this energy, this wealth could be used for the good of the people, Iran could be a regional superpower. But so that this didn’t happen and would always be crushed and subordinate to the hegemony of Israel and Saudi Arabia in the zone, those intelligence reports were ignored and the economic and military blockade was maintained.
If you look at the map of Iran you will see that around Iran on the four sides are 16 military bases of the USA, France and Great Britain and everywhere around Iran is burning. The last country to fall into war was Yemen. Around Iran there is fire, there’s an inferno of wars and in any moment they could set light to Iran also. That’s why there was the attempt by the government and the Iranian people to try to get sanctions lifted, to try to get the economic blockade lifted and also reduce the US and Israeli military threat against Iran.
ELO: And for the region, according to what you’re saying, an effect with this agreement is some reduction of tension.
NA: A lot. Although the sanctions aren’t lifted because they will be debated until the 30th of June. There is a pulse between Iran and the USA to see if sanctions will be lifted or not and at what cost. But even so, this agreement that’s been signed means that in the countries of the region the tense atmosphere has relaxed a little and, for example, yesterday India accepted Iran’s proposal to create a free-trade zone and use local currencies instead of dollars. This is a very positive effect for the zone’s development; it’s a very hard hit for the dollar, also. We will see the positive effects of this relaxation of tensions, for example, in another gesture Iran has offered to bring peace to the situation in Yemen. Iran is not helping the Yemeni rebels, but as it has influence over them it has accepted Turkey’s proposal to talk with the Houthi rebels and bring them to the negotiating table with Saudi Arabia. This is very positive.
ELO: It’s important to clarify that we aren’t making a defence of the Iranian government; Nazanin has strong discrepancies with the theocracy and the way in which the Iranian government works. But here what she is saying is in defence of the people, defending them from foreign intervention, from interference from interests outside Iran. Nazanin has written over 15 books about matters concerning the Middle East and the Islamic religion. It would be interesting if you could briefly explain a bit better what is happening in Yemen, because it’s difficult to understand it from the Western world, if we can call it that.
NA: It is very important that the audience has clear what you have said. One thing is the people, a territory, a history, a civilisation, human lives and another thing is a political system that governs a country. For a country such as ours with 8000 years of history, 35 years of Islamic Republic, a totalitarian theocracy, it’s a momentary lapse. As we have seen happening in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Libya, in Syria, and now in Yemen and what could happen in different countries of the zone that are in the axis-of-evil list and will have to be destroyed by the mandate of Israel and the USA, we are conscious that in this moment the main thing is peace. Peace and the struggle for the liberation of the Iranian people, democratisation, surely they go together, but there is a priority in this moment, which is to keep the peace in Iran so that Iran doesn’t get into a war. I, a political exile from the Iranian regime, defend the idea of negotiations between Iran and the USA, absolutely. If Iran has to yield, then yes, Iran has to yield and I encourage the government of Iran to give in, if it has to do so. For sure, we criticise the Iranian government, we are struggling for the democratisation of the country, but the priority in this moment is to save Iran’s territorial integrity and the lives of 80 million people.
Having said this, the Yemen case is a conflict that has nothing to do with Sunnis and Shias, as it is being portrayed in the Western media. In Yemen there has been a national conflict, there is a regional conflict and there is an international conflict. The national one is due to a religious group, that’s true, but they have been discriminated against for 3 or 4 decades and they are fighting for their autonomy. What happened is that this group, the Houthis, made some disastrous alliances with the country’s former president who was a dictator. Then they fell into Saudi Arabia’s trap. This small group thought they were going to conquer the country, bring down the government and take power. If they only represent 10% of the country’s population, obviously they can’t take power, the people won’t support them. It’s clear. We don’t know why, but they thought they could do so, they occupied the presidential palace and then entered, inexplicably, into a city, into Aden, which is a strategic port, and the US’s military base.
Now, how is it possible that the US, with a military base in the country, with radar, and across the zone has at least seven military bases with almost 300,000 soldiers, has not oppressed or contained this movement before these people came down from the mountains where they were refugees and let them enter the capital and arrest the president and now enter into the city where they have their base?
I pointed out all of this before, in the moment in which the conflict started last January, in an article in the newspaper Público; that the USA was planning to attack Yemen, and would seek one pretext or another, it doesn’t matter what. The pretext then happened. It was that the two terrorists who attacked Charlie Hebdo in France had travelled to Yemen. That was sufficient for the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle from France to depart for the Persian Gulf to patrol around Yemen. The plan was to attack Yemen and occupy it, because it stops China. Here we enter into an international conflict. It is a very important point and China offered to rent several ports from Yemen. In fact the Chinese government is buying 20 million barrels of oil daily. The USA has gone to stop this, because it doesn’t want the Chinese or Iran, who had also offered to rent one of their ports from Yemen, to control a strategic point. Israel won’t allow this because it is their only way out of the Red Sea, therefore both for Iran and for China and other countries, it is essential to be able to dominate this strait.
Therefore the USA has tried to occupy it, to militarise it and they’ve done it. Now what is going to happen is that Saudi Arabia will also get some benefit from this mess which has been created. For Saudi Arabia, Yemen is strategic and not only because of the straits, which is a very important channel, like the Suez or Panama Canals, but rather because they had a plan to lay a gas pipeline from their country to the port of Aden and so bypass the Persian Gulf which is under Iran’s control. This was a direct way of getting their gas out. The Yemen government didn’t allow it and this has been their punishment, “if you don’t let us, we’ll bring you down and put a new client government there that will allow us to take out our gas,” which is something vital for them. Therefore here international and regional interests have been mixed up and it’s the Yemeni people who are being bombed, not by the Saudi Arabian air force, but by US drones. These drones have left thousands of dead and sadly there is more to be destroyed, more people to be killed in Yemen, because this has only been the start.
ELO: with everything that you’ve told us, it’s obvious that there are enemies of this agreement that has been made. What perspective do you have about the reaction to these agreements? What could we expect?
AN: The main enemies of this agreement are the US Republicans and the Israelis of the right-wing government of Benjamin Netanyahu. Despite the fact that the only country that benefits from this agreement is Israel because it guarantees that within the next 15 years Iran will be unable to build nuclear bombs and Israel will continue to be the only country with at least 200 of them already in the region. Therefore, these words of political propaganda from Netanyahu against this agreement are simply to deviate public attention from the real issue.
They have taken a fictitious issue, which is the non-existent nuclear bombs in Iran, so that the world doesn’t pay attention to another real problem that is happening now, which is that they are advancing in Palestinian settlements, that the Palestinian State will never exist, just as Netanyahu said, despite having signed an agreement that would allow the founding of the Palestinian State. But as it is advancing in the settlements, there is practically no territory on which a state could be founded.
And there is something else, something to distract public attention from the Palestine problem and this is that once the nuclear crisis from Iran disappears from the media, the whole world, above all in the Middle East will ask, “And what about Israeli bombs?” They will ask the IAEA to go and visit Israel’s nuclear plants, to see what’s happening there, because we also don’t feel very secure.
Israel, as it doesn’t want this to happen, will continue to talk about Iranian bombs and will continue to pound away at Iran, and at US presidents so that they launch a military attack against Iran. They will continue insisting on trying to involve the USA in a way that, if they enter, no one will come out of it alive. Neither Israel, nor the USA, nor the Iranians, nor the Turks, nor the Saudis. So, Netanyahu’s policy is absolutely reckless and dangerous for world peace. We have to support any negotiation; even if it’s a bad one we should support it. A bad negotiation is always better than a good war.
The Pressenza radio show “En la Oreja” (in your ear) is broadcast every Friday from 9 to 10am in Ecuador on Radio Pichincha Universal 95.3 FM and is presented by Nelsy Lizarazo and Edison Miño in Quito, Tony Robinson from Budapest and Mariano Quiroga from Buenos Aires.