The deal with Iran announced with great fanfare by Obama hides something critical and obvious under a heap of hope. Iran’s nuclear weapons capability has merely been put on hold, not done away with. All the mechanisms described at length in the bulky annexures — the technical fixes to ensure Iran does not cheat — the basis for the US claim that it is verification not trust that’s the foundation of this deal, seems no more than a political device for the Obama Adminstration not to have nuclear weaponized Iran emerge in its time in office — the classic political instinct to put off facing, what the West considers, a bad situation! This was pretty much confirmed in Secretary of State John Kerry’s CNN interview where he stated baldly that not having a NW-armed Iran if for another 10 years was better than having one now!
Some years back a few Indian visitors were taken around an Iranian n-facility. Talking to those in-charge convinced me that Tehran is on the brink having all but achieved weapons status. So, why did Rouhani not go ahead, cross the threshold? Undoubtedly, then the sanctions which are already fairly oppressive would have been ratcheted up a notch or two, making the lives of the people that much more difficult. But, why do the masses matter to the Ayatollahs? For one thing, the central pillar of the theocratic order in Iran are the well-networked baazaris of Tehran and other cities and towns, who are socially conservative but have the fingers on the pulse of the people. The popular sentiment they would have tapped into is that the people are fed up with being cut away from the world, and that this popular resentment would come to a boil sooner rather than later and hurt the foundations of the Islamic Republic. And, in this context it is better to ease up a bit by concerting with the US — villified as the “great satan”. Give the US a bit, but take a mile (the good old baazari tactic but give the impression of making big concessions). In the next 10 years Iran will stock up every which way and especially in the conventional military realm and with freer commerce and trade, permit the pressure cooker situation at home to vent steam. Not bad thinking from the point of view conserving the present mullah-order. But give up on NWS? Nah — these people are the legatees of Persepolis and the empires of Darius and Xerxes, and a civilizational power in its own right, not one to be denied.
From India’s perspective, we had a winning hand all these years but lost an opportunity to forge a strong relationship. Had India been there to give a helping hand — rather than joining the Western bandwagon — this country would have earned enormous political capital with mounting interest with Tehran. We’d have had a mountain of IOUs. Tehran would have remembered that India was with it when it was down, and we’d have benefited from it all along, and especially now. Iranians are good at paying off their debts. In the past decade and more Delhi sought US approval when what India should have done was invest in Chahbahar and get going on the connectivity rail-road grid radiating outwards from that Gulf base northwards and via the Zaranj-Delaram highway connect to Afghanistan and Central Asia to the East and to Russia;s northern transportation network. Instead, Delhi twiddled its thumbs and did Tehran no favours, worrying only of how to pay for imported Iranian oil with the banking channels closed. We are no mean baazaris ourselves, and we could have settled on a barter system or some other means of putting our trade and commercial relations on a firm footing. Iran is central to India’s strategic outreach and consolidation in the Gulf-Caspian region — helping us bypass the Pakistan transit option. GOI acted as if entirely innocent of the geostrategic imperatives, perhaps, because it indeed knows little and cares even less about missed geopolitical opportunities.