P5+1: The international agreement where all parties are happy

Sunday 24 November 2013, it was announced that the P5+1 (the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Russia and China, facilitated by the European Union) had reached an agreement with Iran regarding the latter’s nuclear program. According to each country’s statements the agreement is a success and everyone is a winner. But when have we ever witnessed an agreement of such kind?

Although the agreement is not officially published in full, we get a glimpse of some of its important features from the points that have been released in media. The least interesting thing about the “Nuclear agreement” is the nuclear issue.

For a non-democratic regime that faces strong opposition from within and which has been severely crippled by economic sanctions, the agreement proves to be a life-saving last solution- at least for six months. Under the agreement, a few of the economic sanctions are lifted. In return the regime will stay a live and in power as a de facto protectorate with minimal economic sovereignty still intact. The agreement places the major income source- the oil trade- under the control of the P5+1, by providing that Iran’s crude oil sales cannot increase in a six-month period, resulting in what is estimated to be about $30 billion  in lost revenues to the country. Further restrictions are placed on Iran’s access to its oil sales; on its foreign exchange holdings and on a number of other financial services. A regime that preaches fight against imperialism and “the West”, now finds itself in the peculiar situation where its survival rests precisely on “the West” and a new kind of economic imperialism resulting from the country’s lack of acknowledgement of international law and the rules of the game.

On the bright side, the agreement might have prevented a more serious conflict. But here we can only guess. What we can be certain about, however, is that any agreement where the world’s major powers are involved and where all are smiling has wider geopolitical significance than the nuclear issue.

6 thoughts on “P5+1: The international agreement where all parties are happy

  1. Re: “…the country’s lack of acknowledgement of international law and the rules of the game.”

    This strikes me as utterly false in the case of the Iranian regime: the regime has often acknowledged same, even if it has believed, at least since the Iranian Revolution, that imperialist powers have had and continue to possess inordinate say in the determination and interpretation of that law and those rules. If this were not so, Iran would not have participated in the Iran–United States Claims Tribunal (IUSCT), nor would it have been a party to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, or taken the trouble to claim “it has a legal right to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes under the NPT,” or contend that it “has constantly complied with its obligations under the NPT and the Statute of the International Atomic Energy Agency.” If it failed to acknowledge such law it would not need to take the trouble to argue that “its enrichment program is part of its civilian nuclear energy program, which is allowed under Article IV of the NPT.” Much more could be said of course about Iran and international law generally (a forthcoming book by Dan Joyner on the topic will no doubt help set the standards and parameters for such a discussion), but the premise of whatever else is said will at the very least have to concede that the regime has often “acknowledged” (in both rhetoric and actions) such law.

    • As you precisely put it yourself, O’Donnell, «the regime has often acknowledged- in rhetoric and actions such law”. The emphasis is on “often”. A more accurate term would perhaps be “sometimes”. But, as you know, international law is not a pick and choose system where you can follow the law when it serves your immediate interests and breach it where you think it does not. The Iranian regime has on numerous occasions in clear words expressed its lack of acknowledgment of international law and is daily in systematic breach of it with respect to people within its jurisdiction.

  2. Azin, My remarks were intended largely (the exception noted) with regard to international law and the history of Iran’s nuclear power program, so I was not speaking to the possible or probable “systematic breach of it with respect to people within its jurisdiction” (after all, that was not the subject of your post). And while of course it is true international law should not be a “pick and choose system,” surely you appreciate the fact that power politics, such as it is, means that this is often in fact the case, the U.S. being a notorious exemplar of “picking and choosing” (as Phillipe Sands, among many others, has convincingly argued), thus it seems hardly fair to single out Iran for chastisement in these terms.* And there may be a confusion of meaning of terms at work here: to acknowledge, descriptively speaking, something exists (here, international law) need not mean that one agrees with it, normatively speaking, so one can at the same time acknowledge the existence and even importance of international law while not always (justifiably or not) agreeing with its terms. Moreover, the nature and history of customary international law provides ample evidence that sometimes existing international law is broken or ignored by way of creating new international law.

    * Cf., for instance, and with regard to international criminal law, the one-sided nature of “victor’s justice” in the Nuremberg and Tokyo Tribunals, the Allied powers not being held to account for their war crimes.

    • International human rights law is part of international law. And genesis is not validity. There can be dubious intentions behind the creation of international norms, just as there can be dubious intentions behind the creation of domestic laws- but that does not reduce their validity. Nor does the breach of law by some states justify that every other state should follow the same path.

  3. Azin, (First, let me note that you seem once again to be inferring normative claims from my descriptive statements.) I know international human rights law is part of international law…and I’ve composed decent bibliographies for both (available here: http://ratiojuris.blogspot.com/2013/09/online-research-bibliographies-directed.html), and I was not speaking to questions of intention nor committing the genetic fallacy in anything I wrote above. Laws can be valid, in a positivist sense, yet may lack legitimacy of a kind or be unjust (which does not necessarily entail the need to violate them or justify their breach). The fact that some states violate international norms or laws of course does not entail that others should follow their example. I did not make such a patently ridiculous claim. What is important, however, is to ascertain, if possible, the reasons for the breach, reasons which may temper or modify our reaction to the simple violation of law (it’s even possible, as in civil disobedience in the municipal case, that one has plausible or even ample moral justification–one which assumes commitment to the rule of law as such–to break an international law or rule, as Allen Buchanan has well-argued).

    Best wishes,

    • I don’t oppose the general points in your last reply, I think they are valid. My concern is, however, that these general points, when applied to the specific case we are speaking of, can be used to justify or excuse breaches of international law that are neither morally nor legally justifiable.
      This is a discussion that could go on forever, so instead of continuing on this thread I will refer to the bibliography that you so kindly provided.

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