Step One on the path to a historic nuclear deal for Iran

Iran has promised to abide by the rules as world powers begin the next stage of stripping its path to a nuclear weapon. In return the crippling economic sanctions which brought Iran to the table will go. At this point there is good cause for optimism, albeit of the trust but verify kind. Only an idiot would prefer War over Jaw.

Seventy years ago this July the world stepped into the Atomic Age - the green light for a nuclear arms race and its accompanying dark clouds of Armageddon and nuclear proliferation.

Armageddon - the final struggle between the powers of good and evil - has not occurred.

Nuclear proliferation has been contained to a handful of countries, and apart from the fractious behaviour of the rogue North Korea, and the non-NPT compliant Israel, nuclear states do not generally wave their weapons around in public.

Even rivals India and Pakistan (home of the supposedly much feared “Islamic bomb”) have a treaty preventing them from targeting each other’s nukes.

Seventy years after all this began, the United States remains the only country to have unleashed this atrocious weapon of mass destruction.

It is now at the forefront of the effort for nuclear non-proliferation and played a key role in the reaching of a potentially historic framework that will prevent Iran from progressing towards nuclear weapon capacity.

As President Obama noted, the result of years of work which climaxed with eight frenzied final days at the Beau Rivage, the Lausanne framework agreement is a result for peace rather than war.

Iran has long been suspected to trying to develop nuclear weapons capacity, despite its leaders claiming it wants only civilian nuclear capacity.

The obscurantism practiced by Iran with respect to its years of nuclear work has unsurprisingly fueled this notion.

It has facilitated opponents in a portrayal of Iran as an irrational demagogue wanting to do only harm to the world.

Some of Iran’s behaviour is certainly questionable, but it by no means has the mortgage on human rights abuses, political repression and the production of religious extremists in the region and far beyond.

We have been fed a steady diet of Iran’s “mad mullahs”, its sponsorship of terror and its proxy wars as if it is the only country involved in such practices. Doesn’t excuse them but sometimes needs to be pointed out.

Sure I have seen the “death to America” murals on Tehran streets but they can’t be isolated from decades of crippling sanctions, mistrust and misunderstanding on both sides in which Iran has definitely come off the worse. 

It has been so easy to keep Iran in the glib and convenient ‘Axis of Evil’ - or the more ridiculous “Tehran-Lausanne-Yemen Axis” (no points for guessing who coined that one).

Now, to use a poignant nuclear term, it is Iran’s chance to break out of this cycle and its most definitely rational (as opposed to mad) President Rouhani promised on Friday that Iran will not cheat and will honour its commitments, so long as the other parties do, in the push for a final nuclear deal by the end of June.

The Lausanne agreement took all by surprise for the depth of detail it provided on the parameters and issues which are now to be the backbone of the final deal.

That should be an important factor in its salability to doubters who may now realise it is time to eschew the Pavolvian any-deal-is-a-bad-deal response.

Amongst the inevitable critics is of course the US Congress and some hawkish Democrats.

However what seems clear is that if Congress decides to torpedo the deal by imposing its own sanctions on Iran in contravention of the final deal should it be realised, it will be a virtually irrelevant gesture as the European Union, the United Nations, China, Russia, Britain, France, Germany and countless other nations will have committed to the diplomatic solution and the United States will be isolated. 

Dialogue, what the Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif frequently termed “engagement with dignity”, and marathon jawing through the nights, succeeded in reaching a win-win rather than a zero sum framework.

There had to be concessions and they were made by both sides. That’s what negotiation is all about.

When the Iranian delegation returned home they were greeted as heroes. Why? Because most ordinary everyday Iranians want to get on with ordinary everyday life - having jobs, raising families, accessing medical care, participating in education and culture. Nothing extraordinary at all, but often near impossible in a country that is so crippled by sanctions.

When the negotiations in Lausanne were in their final throes, my husband and I happened to be in the city and one afternoon, in the bar of the Beau Rivage.

Recognisable political figures and journalists were seen all around the beautiful lakeside  venue during the eight days of talks.

When we were enjoying a late afternoon toast, a gentleman in, I would guess, his mid to late 50s asked if he could take the empty chair our table, to which I said of course.

I knew immediately he was Iranian and thought he must be a journo.

To our surprise he didn’t take the seat away, but sat down and essentially joined us. 

He asked if we were involved in the talks (the journo in me was so frustrated at being so close and yet so far).

Long story short, he was indeed Iranian, flattered that I had picked that, had no connection to the talks and now lived in a Swiss town close to the German border.

He was an engineer educated at Nottingham University, and spoke eight languages.

Why was he in Lausanne?

He had taken a four hour train trip from his hometown to Lausanne to try and let anyone on the Iranian delegation know that success in this deal was so important to him as a “proud Iranian”, that he just had to be there.

He recognised an Iranian journalist and made his case. He asked that if all she could do was pass on his sincere wishes to the delegation that it stick at this until there was success he would be satisfied. She promised she would.

Who knows whether his message was passed on, but his actions sure spoke of a people wanting to be part of the world again.

I hope he celebrated Thursday’s news.

More so however, I hope he has cause for further celebration at the end of June.