Overall summary: Today’s Iran topic was not difficult to discuss but the difficulty lied in the U.S. policy options. The group suggested that we don’t really have meaningful options to resume talks with Iran on our terms, especially when related to the development of nuclear weapons. The group feels that Iran will eventually succeed in developing nuclear arms.
- Announcement by Steve Ivester: This play is a good read. Author is our own John Bates. The book is titled “Sly Susan: A Play” and it sells on Amazon for $4.95. if interested you can Order here.
- Announcement by Hani: Since next week is the last session, we typically bring some snacks, so if you are attending, you are welcome to bring something small with you such as cookies, popcorn, cheese & crackers, Hummus dip, small fruit tray, small vegetable tray, etc.
Next week’s topic is CLIMATE MIGRATION. It is the last topic in our 8-session series. Here is the master class video
Here is what we discussed this evening:
- The crossroads facing Iran in 2023 can be summarized as:
o Will it remain as is, that is Status-Quo?
o Will it become more nuclear? This is the opinion of the group
o Will the revolution / protests lead to the country leaning more to the west?
- The world sanctions against Iran seem to be only holding from the U.S. side. France, the UK, Germany, China, and Russia seem to prefer trading with Iran over continuing to sanctioning them. This reduces the effect of sanctions and renders them practically useless. Sanctions tend to hurt the people more than the ruling party.
- The nuclear agreement (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA) was an Obama Executive Action and was not submitted for approval. This meant that it could be cancelled by the next administration, which is exactly what happened. Obama did not submit the JCPOA for approval because congress was divided on this issue.
- Question: Who can stop Iran from developing Nuclear weapons? The group is sure that NO ONE will stop Iran, and thus Iran will eventually become nuclear.
- China, in an effort to expand its influence in the region, has recently brokered a Saudi-Iran deal. What does this mean? On paper, the deal is to reopen embassies, resume trade, and possibly to avoid future military conflicts. China’s role is important because (1) China buys oil from SA and Iran, and (2) both Iran and SA want a good relationship with a superpower other than the U.S.. Let’s see what comes out of this deal. We will revisit this topic in the future.
- The influence of Hezbollah (backed by Iran) in Lebanon has become a main player within the state, and now holds the key to presidential elections. Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, has some influence of the Sunni population, but to a much lesser degree than Hezbollah with the Shia population.
- In the late 70’s there were over 100,000 Iranians studying abroad with half of them in the U.S.. In addition over 50,000 Americans were working in Iran. Just before COVID 11,450 students were enrolled in American colleges. This is a drastic change and relates to the deteriorating relationship between the two governments.
- There is a lack of understanding of the Iranian culture in general, and the U.S. education system (Geography, History, languages, religion, etc.) does not cover the world as it should. This is leading to dangerous void in understanding the world around us.
- One historical incident that is still widely remembered is the hostage crises in 1979-1981, which to this date is believed to play a role in hindering the reconciliation efforts.
- What is hindering the U.S. from re-starting discussions with Iran? The group thinks it is (1) the inability of the U.S. government to agree on a direction, and (2) the influence of the Israeli lobby on the U.S. government.
- The last discussion point covered the point why not the nuclearisation of every country? Would this stop the potential of countries using nuclear weapons? Would this possibly lead to massive use of nuclear weapons or the careless use of it? Would each country have the necessary redundancy checks to eliminate the impulsive firing of a nuclear weapon? Would smaller countries have the ability to respond to a nuclear attack?
- Albert Camus, the French Nobel Prize winner in Literature reacted in the French journal “Combat” to the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and prior to the follow-up bomb on Nagasaki by stating that peace is the only fight worth fighting.
- So maybe a final question: Are nuclear weapons used to intimidate, deter, or is it both?
What should a US do about Iran’s nuclear program? Iran now has a peaceful nuclear energy program. Will they transition into in nuclear weapons program? If so, what are the consequences for the Persian Gulf countries?
The United States and other countries have expressed concerns about Iran’s nuclear program for years. While Iran insists that its nuclear program is solely for peaceful purposes, many Western countries, including the US, suspect that Iran may be developing nuclear weapons.
The US has pursued a range of strategies to address Iran’s nuclear program, including economic sanctions, diplomatic pressure, and military options. In 2015, the US, along with other world powers, reached a deal with Iran to limit its nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions. However, in 2018, the US withdrew from the agreement and re-imposed sanctions on Iran, citing concerns about Iran’s ballistic missile program and its support for terrorist groups.
It is difficult to predict with certainty whether Iran will develop nuclear weapons. However, if Iran were to develop nuclear weapons, it could have significant consequences for the Persian Gulf countries, particularly Saudi Arabia and Israel, which have expressed concerns about Iran’s nuclear program. It could also lead to a regional arms race and increase the likelihood of a military conflict in the Middle East.
The US has been able to reconcile with former enemies, such as Vietnam and the Soviet Union. What is it about Iran that makes it so hard to do so?
There are several factors that make it challenging for the US to reconcile with Iran, which are different from the factors that played a role in reconciling with Vietnam and the Soviet Union.
First, there is a long history of mistrust and animosity between the US and Iran. This is partly due to the 1979 Iranian Revolution, which led to the overthrow of the US-backed Shah and the establishment of an Islamic republic in Iran. Since then, the US and Iran have been involved in a series of conflicts and confrontations, including the Iran-Iraq War, Iran’s support for Hezbollah and other militant groups, and the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.
Second, Iran’s government and its policies are often seen as controversial and provocative by many in the US and other Western countries. Iran’s support for militant groups, its involvement in conflicts in Syria and Yemen, and its opposition to Israel are viewed as destabilizing and threatening to regional and global security.
Third, there are domestic political considerations in both the US and Iran that make it difficult to reach a compromise. In Iran, hardline factions opposed to any concessions to the US have significant influence, while in the US, there is a long-standing suspicion of Iran and a reluctance to engage in negotiations that could be perceived as weak or appeasing.
Lastly, there are differences in cultural and ideological values between the US and Iran, which can create misunderstandings and misperceptions that complicate diplomatic efforts.
These factors, among others, make it challenging for the US to reconcile with Iran, and it may take significant efforts and concessions from both sides to overcome these obstacles and reach a lasting agreement.
The Iranian revolution was 43 years ago. How has the country changed since then?
Since the Iranian Revolution in 1979, Iran has undergone significant changes, both politically and socially. Here are some key developments:
Political system: Iran’s political system shifted from a monarchy to an Islamic republic. The Supreme Leader, who is appointed for life, holds ultimate power, with the President and other elected officials serving in a subordinate capacity. The country has a complex system of checks and balances, with various institutions, including the Guardian Council, the Assembly of Experts, and the Expediency Council, playing significant roles.
Economy: Iran’s economy has undergone significant changes since the revolution, with the government nationalizing many industries and implementing policies aimed at reducing economic inequality. However, the economy has faced challenges, including corruption, sanctions, and mismanagement.
Society: Iran’s society has also undergone significant changes. Women have gained more rights and opportunities, and the country has experienced a cultural revolution, with a renewed emphasis on Islamic values and traditions.
Foreign relations: Iran’s foreign relations have been marked by periods of isolation and hostility, as well as periods of engagement and cooperation. Iran has developed close ties with certain countries, including Russia and China, while maintaining tensions with others, including the US, Israel, and Saudi Arabia.
Nuclear program: Iran’s nuclear program has been a source of controversy and tension between Iran and the international community. The country has maintained that its program is for peaceful purposes, but many Western countries have suspected that Iran is seeking nuclear weapons.
Overall, Iran has undergone significant changes since the revolution, and its future trajectory remains uncertain, as it faces various challenges and opportunities.
What were the elements of the Iran nuclear deal?
The Iran nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), was an agreement reached in 2015 between Iran and six world powers (the US, UK, France, Germany, Russia, and China). The main elements of the JCPOA were:
Limitations on Iran’s nuclear program: Iran agreed to reduce its uranium stockpile by 98%, limit uranium enrichment to 3.67% (far below the level needed for weapons-grade material) and allow inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) at its nuclear facilities to ensure compliance.
Lifting of economic sanctions: The US, EU, and UN agreed to lift economic sanctions on Iran in exchange for its compliance with the restrictions on its nuclear program.
Verification mechanisms: The JCPOA established a rigorous monitoring and verification system to ensure that Iran was complying with the restrictions on its nuclear program. The IAEA was responsible for monitoring Iran’s nuclear activities and verifying its compliance.
Sunset clauses: Some of the restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program were set to expire after a certain period, with the longest being 15 years. After that, Iran would be free to pursue a nuclear program, subject to monitoring by the IAEA.
Reimposition of sanctions: The JCPOA included a “snapback” mechanism, under which sanctions would be automatically reimposed if Iran was found to be in noncompliance with the terms of the agreement.
The JCPOA was intended to ensure that Iran’s nuclear program would remain peaceful, while allowing Iran to access the global economy and reducing the risk of military conflict. However, in 2018, the US withdrew from the agreement and reimposed sanctions on Iran, and Iran has since begun to exceed some of the limits on its nuclear program.
What did the US give up in the Iran nuclear deal?
Under the terms of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), also known as the Iran nuclear deal, the United States gave up several things in exchange for Iran’s commitments to restrict its nuclear program. Here are some of the main things the US gave up:
- Economic sanctions: The US agreed to lift a range of economic sanctions that had been imposed on Iran as a result of its nuclear program. This included lifting restrictions on Iran’s oil exports, its access to international financial markets, and various other forms of economic activity.
- Frozen assets: The US also agreed to release around $100 billion in frozen Iranian assets that had been held in foreign banks as a result of sanctions.
- Nuclear restrictions: In addition to lifting sanctions, the US also agreed to restrict its own nuclear program. The US committed to reducing its stockpile of enriched uranium, limiting the number and quality of centrifuges used for enrichment, and reducing the amount of plutonium produced at one of its reactors.
- Diplomatic recognition: The US also agreed to open a diplomatic channel with Iran and to treat Iran as a normal member of the international community. This included removing some Iranian entities from the US list of sanctioned organizations and facilitating trade between Iran and other countries.
In exchange for these concessions, Iran agreed to restrict its nuclear program and submit to regular inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to verify its compliance with the deal. The goal of the deal was to ensure that Iran’s nuclear program remained peaceful, while allowing Iran to engage more fully with the global community and the international economy. However, the US withdrew from the deal in 2018, and the current status of the agreement is uncertain.