President Barack Obama put his best foot forward when he made the official announcement on the historic agreement reached between the six world powers and Iran over the latter's nuclear programme. "This is not an agreement based on trust, but on verifiab
In the past few days, the world has heard a great deal of what others said, yet little from the key party to the accord – Iran.
The following is an excerpt from an account written by an Iranian man of letters – Saleh Miri. An architect under the Shah of Iran, Miri is a historian and a polymath who sees the world from diverse perspectives, as he keeps residences in Paris, Muscat and Tehran.
On the agreement that was finally signed on Tuesday after one deadline after another had passed, this is his view:
“There is a lot to say about the deal that was signed yesterday, which often is misunderstood by people around the world.
“First there is the issue of culture and language, which differ from country to country. When an Iranian president burned the American and Israeli flags, it was his way of expressing his anger. In the Middle East, when people want to insult you, they use every possible way, but nothing direct; they will insult your mother, father, your country, etc, but never you. So the differences that have appeared over the years between the West and Iran have a cultural background. Some politicians put in the effort to understand, and it made a difference. Others stick to their own convictions and continue to judge without valid arguments. This is not to justify the actions of the extremists in Iran, but just to clarify their angle and perspective. At the time of the revolution, Iran had a literacy level of about 75 per cent. After the revolution it increased, but education was deeply influenced by the clerics, whose interest has been to keep knowledge at its lowest level possible, discouraging people from doing research on the pretext that it is against religion.
“Second, issues surrounding this deal are subject to historic misunderstandings that will require total revision. Persia can boast some 7,000 years of history – 35 times greater than that of the US and many times more than France or UK, which are part of the UN Security Council. Why, when countries such as Pakistan and Israel, which have existed only for some 70 years each and from which signs of fanaticism occasionally emanate, are permitted nuclear weapons, is the world is so fearful of Iran developing its nuclear programme? Maybe one solution would be for nuclear weapons to be eradicated totally from the region, not a selective permission for one country and prohibition for another. The pronounced threat of a nuclear-armed Iran seems to have been exploited for political purpose.
“Third, there is a geopolitical aspect to all this. The West, particularly Europe and the US need the Iranian market and its influence over about 400 million neighbours. So today, as the Western economy declines, tapping into a demanding and desperate market is a real blessing. This deal was needed more by the West than by Iran.
“Fourth, the Islamic State – Daesh – and other emerging terrorist powers did not pop up accidentally. It is common knowledge that they were financed by Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Surely the Islamic State is not buying its arms from Bangladesh or Ethiopia but from the West and with their know-how. With such large arms sales from the West, things went terribly wrong. It was a direct consequence of arming these extremists and it was unanticipated. Today these extremists go back to Tunisia, to France, to the UK and now suddenly nobody wants to have them. The consequence of this miscalculation is the global shift from supporting the Sunnis to backing up the Shias. In addition to the terror aspects in the region, an arrogance emitting from Qatar and Saudi, combined with rising oil prices, has caused the West to make a 180-degree about-face.
“Suddenly the world seems to have come to the realisation that the Summer Olympic Games in Qatar in July will be too hot. Suddenly, it was alleged that Sepp Blatter was getting kick-backs to ensure that Qatar won the competition to host the Summer Olympics in 2024. We know that in the real world, only the “little irregularities” are caught, then lo and behold, major bribery was suddenly traceable.
“It is therefore fair to say that the shift in the Middle East seems to correlate with the gradual decline of Saudi Arabia, which has internal massive corruption and leadership issues. It also coincides with the decline in state of Qatar, which is forced to invest all its money in the West – Harrods, Printemps, Paris Saint Germain etc, and nothing in Qatar itself. And let us be realistic. What were these countries 60 years ago? A conglomerate of Bedouins encouraged by Western entrepreneurs to let them develop their underground energy, in exchange for some nice cars, high-rise buildings and foreign maids. Once these two countries start their decline, others in the region such as Kuwait and Bahrain will not last long. One exception will be hopefully the Sultanate of Oman, whose leader was one of the main architects of the deal, and who took serious risks to ensure that the deal would become reality, not for himself, nor only his country and his people, but for the greater good of the region and the world.
“The shift from the Sunnis to the Shias is not based on religion but mainly on attitude. The Persians through their history have never attacked any other country, but cooperated with those who tried to enter Iran and make changes (Moguls, Greeks, Indians, and Ottomans, etc). The drive for the changes is mainly economic, and the West badly needs new markets. There were times when oil was fetching US$130- 140 per barrel, now it will plunge to the $30-40 level. The US is now the largest energy producer, but why should it use its own reserves when it can get the energy cheaper from the Middle East?
“Iran has a population of round 80 million people but has an influence over 10-12 countries in the region with a population nearing 400 million people. The Iranian population is primarily composed of 75 per cent youth below the age of 25 and they want to have changes in their own country, aspiring to freedom of expression, to the right to work and make a decent living etc. Things will change naturally in Iran, but the speed at which this change will happen will depend on the Western powers and their understanding of a world quite different from theirs.
“The just-concluded deal still has many hurdles to overcome. The approval of the US Congress is needed while the rumbling reactions of Israel and its influence over the world media is a definite. The changes within Iran, the weakening of its leadership, the transformation from the paramilitary into business-orientated organisations all point toward one direction – this road will be long and gruelling.
“Nevertheless, in the coming months the role of major powers like China, Russia and India will determine the path and the speed of the region’s transformation. Sergey Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister played a remarkable role in these negotiations, and was the master chess player, balancing the powers around the table. India badly needs energy and will bend in all directions to obtain cheaper energy. China, now having a currency recognised by the IMF as a financial measured currency will wish to enter this market and obtain rewards.
“Let us just hope that these political intrigues will not interfere in the lives of the regular people who just wish to make a simple living among their friends and family.”