- John Kerry and Mohammad Javad Zarif have concluded a secret, bilateral, preliminary political agreement. In doing so, they have also concluded a public agreement in the framework of the 5+1 multilateral negotiations.
The secret bilateral talks
Since March 2013, the United States and Iran have been talking in secret. These unannounced contacts began in Oman. For the Iranians, suffocating under an economic and monetary siege without historical precedent, it was not a question of giving in to imperialism, but arriving at a cease-fie for the space of few years, just enough time to regain a little strength. For the United States, who hope to be able to move their troops from the Near East to the Far East, this opportunity had to be accompanied by specific guarantees that Teheran would not profit from the agreement to extend its influence even further.
The US team was directed by two first-rate negotiators, Jake Sullivan and William Burns. We don’t know who composed the Iranian delegation. Mr. Sullivan was one of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s main consellors, but did not share her blind support of Israël, nor her fascination for the Muslim Brotherhood. He organised the wars against Libya and Syria. When Mrs. Clinton was thrown out by President Obama, Mr. Sullivan became a counsellor for Vice-President Biden’s National Security Agency. It is under these auspices that he engaged in talks with Iran. As for Mr. Burns, he is a career diplomat – and, it is said, one of the best in the United States. He joined the discussions in his quality as adjutant of State Secretary John Kerry.
At least two decisions have come from these talks. Firstly, the Supreme Leader of Iran, ayatollah Ali Khamenei, agreed to take care to exclude Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie – ex-head of the Intelligence Services of the Revolutionary Guards, now Cabinet Chief and related by marriage to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad – from the Presidential race. In this way, Iran will be lowering its profile in the face of international instances. Following that, the US will take care to lower the profile of their anti-Iranian allies, and will unlock the 5+1 negotiations about the nuclear issues in such a way as to put an end to the sanctions.
And in fact, to everyone’s surprise, the Council of the Guardians of the Constitution (half of whose members were nominated by ayatollah Khamenei) censored the candidacy of Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie, when polls clearly projected him as winning from the first ballot. Thanks to division among the ranks of the Revolutionaries, skillfully cultivated by the Supreme Leader, Cheikh Hassan Rohani was elected instead. He was the man of the situation, a nationalist clergyman, and had been the head negotiator for the nuclear issue from 2003 to 2005. He had accepted all the European demands before being relieved of his functions by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad when he became President. Mr. Rohani had studied constitutional law in Scotland, and was the first Iranian to be contacted by Israël and the United States during Irangate. During the attempted ’colour revolution’ of 2009, organised by the CIA with the aid of ayatollahs Rafsanjani and Khatami, he took the pro-Western stance against President Ahmadinejad. At the same time, his position as a clergyman enabled the mollahs to reclaim the State from the Guardians of the Revolution.
In turn, the United States also gave instructions to their Saudi allies to lower their profile and offer a benevolent welcome to the new Iranian governement. For a few months, Riyad and Teheran were all smiles, while Cheikh Rohani made personal contact with his US counterpart.
The White House’s plan
The idea of the White House was to take notice of the Iranian successes in Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Bahreïn and leave Teheran to enjoy its influence in these countries in exchange for renouncing the expansion of its Revolution. Having abandoned the idea of sharing the Near East with the Russians, Washington was now looking at the possibility of distributing it between Saudi Arabia and Iran before retiring its troops.
The announcement of this possible division suddenly reinforced the analysis of regional events as a Sunni (Saudi) – Chiite (Iranian) conflict, which is absurd, since the religions of the leaders often does not correspond to the religions of the supporting rank-and-file.
However, this division brought the Near East back to the period of the Bagdad Pact , in other words, the Cold War, except for the fact that Iran now played the part of the URSS, and the zones of influence were shared differently.
Apart from the fact that this could only annoy the present Federation of Russia, this new distribution dragged Israël back to the period when it had no US umbrella. From the point of view of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a partisan of the expansion of his country « from the Nile to the Euphrates », this was unacceptable. He therefore tried eveything in his power to sabotage the continued implementation of the programme.
This is why, although an agreement on the nuclear issue had been reached in Geneva at the beginning of 2014, the US negotiator, Wendy Sherman, pushed for the Israëli demands in order to raise the stakes. She suddenly affirmed that Washington would not simply accept guarantees that it would be impossible for Iran to build an atomic bomb, but also demanded guarantees that it would give up its development of ballistic missiles. This astonishing demand was rejected by China and Russia, who pointed out that such a demand was not covered by the Non-Proliferation Treaty or the competence of the 5+1.
This new development shows that the atomic bomb was never the preoccupation of the United States in this affair, even though they used the pretext to contain Iran with a terrible economic and monetary siege. Morover, President Obama implicitly recognised this during his speech of the 2nd of April, alluding to the fatwa of the Supreme Leader which forbids this type of weapon . In reality, the Islamic Republic of Iran abandoned its military nuclear programme shortly after the declaration by ayatollah Khomeiny against weapons of mass destruction in 1988. As from that moment, Teheran only continued its civil research, even though certain elements of this research could have military implications, for use to power warships, for example. The position of imam Khomeiny became law with the fatwa of ayatollah Khamenei, the 9th August 2005 .
In any event, although Washington considers Benjamin Netanyahu to be a « hysterical fanatic », it spent 2014 working on finding agreement with Tsahal. The idea progressively imposed itself that in the regional distribution between Saudi Arabia and Iran, there had to be a system of protection for the Jewish colony. This gave form to the project of creating a sort of new Bagdad Pact – the regional instances of NATO, officially placed under the presidence of Saudi Arabia in order for it to be acceptable by the Arabs, but in reality presided by Israël – just as the old Pact was de facto presided by the United States, who were not even members. This project was made public by President Obama in his National Security Doctrine, on the 6th February 2015 .
The nuclear agreement and the end of the sanctions were thus postponed. Washington organised Tsahal’s revolt against Benjamin Netanyahu, convinced that the Prime Minister would not stay in power for long. But, despite the creation of Commanders for Israel’s Security and the calls from almost all the old superior officers to abstain from voting for Netanyahu, he managed to convince his electorate that he was the only man to protect the Jewish colony. He was re-elected.
Concerning Palestine, Washington and Teheran agreed to freeze the Israëli situation and create a Palestinian state in conformity with the Oslo agreements. Mr. Netanyahu, who was spying not only on the 5+1 negotiations, but also on the secret bilateral talks, reacted violently by publicly announcing that as long as he was alive, Israël would never accept the recognition of a Palestinian state. He thus declared that Tel-Aviv had no intention of respecting its signature on the Oslo agreements, and had been continuing negotiations with the Palestinian Authority over the last twenty years only to gain time.
The Joint Arab Forces
Impatient to get this over with, Washington and London chose the Yemenite rebellion as a conclusion. The Houthi Chiites, allied with soldiers faithful to ex-President Saleh, had demanded and obtained the resignation of President Hadi, who suddenly changed his mind. In fact, Hadi had no longer been either legal or legitimate for a long time. He had extended his power at the end of his mandate on the basis of engagements which he had never considered respecting. Neither the United States nor the United Kingdom had any particular sympathy for either side, whom they had supported alternatively at different times. They allowed Saudi Arabia to affirm that this revolution was a coup d’etat, and to try once again to annex the country. A military operation was organised by London to support Aden from the pirate state of Somaliland. At the same time, using the Yemeni crisis as a pretext, the Arab League made public the Arab part of the new regional NATO – the Joint Arab Force.
Three days later, the 5+1 agreements, which had been negotiated a year earlier, were also made public . However, in the meantime, Secretary of State John Kerry and his Iranian opposite number, Mohammad Javad Zarif, spent a whole day reviewing all the political points in discussion. It was decided that Washington and Teheran would lower the tensions in Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Bahreïn for the next three months, and that the Geneva agreement would not be signed until the end of June, and would remain valid for the next ten years if both parties had kept their word.
It is probable that over the next three months, Mr. Netanyahu will make another attempt to sabotage the US plan. It would therefore not be surprising if we were to see further unclaimed terrorist actions or political assassinations, the responsibility of which could be attributed to Washington or Teheran, in order to stop the signature intended for the 30th June 2015.
It would therefore be logical for Washington to encourage political evolution in Israël which could limit the Prime Minister’s powers. The very tough speeeh by President Reouven Rivlin, when he charged Mr. Netanyahu with forming the next government, should be read as such.
Yemen has never been examined in the bilateral discussions. If the agreement is signed, Yemen may therefore be the only remaining point of conflict in the region over the next ten years.
While Washington concludes an agreement with Teheran and promotes a military alliance around Saudi Arabia, it is at the same time carrying on the opposite policy with the societies in these states. On the one hand, it favours dividing the region between states, and on the other, it is fragmenting the societies by means of terrorism, going so far as to create a terrorist sub-state, the Islamic Emirate (« Daesh »).
Originally, the United States had planned to constitute the Joint Arab Force with the Gulf States and Jordan, perhaps even Morocco later on. There is a coherence between the regimes concerned. However, Oman has kept its distance, despite being a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council. And Saudi Arabia is attempting to use its influence to offer membership to Egypt and Pakistan, despite the fact that the latter is not an Arab country.
Concerning Egypt, Cairo enjoys no room to manouver and must agree to all requests without ever engaging in action. The country has no means of subsistence, and is only able to feed its population with the help of international aid, in other words, thanks to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, Russia and the United States. Egypt was dragged into the operation « Decisive Tempest » in Yemen, once again on the side of the South, just as during the civil war (1962-1970), except that the ex-Communists have since become members of al-Qaïda, and that Cairo is now the ally of the Saudi monarchy. Clearly, Egypt needs to get out of this mess as quickly as possible.
Beyond the Levant and the Gulf, the evolution of the regional situation is going to pose problems for Russia and China. For Moscow, while the ten-year cease-fire is good news, it is galling to have to abandon its hopes to the profit of Iran simply because it took too long to rebuild its forces after the dissolution of the USSR. This is the point of the agreement with Syria to develop the military port of Tartous. The Russian navy has to regain a durable place in the Mediterranean, both in Syria and in Cyprus.
Concerning China, the US-Iran cease-fire will quickly lead to a transfer of GI’s from the Gulf to the Far East. Already, the Pentagon is envisaging the construction of the greatest millitary base in the world in Brunei. For Beijing, it has become a race to bring its armed forces up to scratch – China has to be ready to confront the United States Empire before the US is ready to attack them.