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IRAN’S UNEXPECTED DEMISE? Water, not heavy water, is Iran’s desperate need

Our main problem [the water crisis] that threatens us, that is more dangerous than Israel, America or political fighting, is the issue of living in Iran. It is that the Iranian plateau is becoming uninhabitable

– Isa Kalantari, Iran’s Agriculture Minister (1989-98) under Ayatollahs Rafsanjani’s and Khatami’s presidencies, cited in “Iran Becoming ‘Uninhabitable,” Al-Monitor, July 9, 2013

… if Iran doesn’t radically change its water usage, 50 million people – 70 percent of Iranians – will have no choice but to leave the country

– Thomas Friedman, “For the Mideast, It’s Still 1979,” The New York Times, July 29, 2015

Iran is headed for a water shortage of epic proportions, and little is being done to reverse a decades-long trend that has reduced the country’s water supply to crisis levels… scientists warn that the already arid country runs the risk of becoming a vast desert.

– Jason Rezaian, “Iran’s water crisis the product of decades of bad planning,” TheWashington Post, July 2, 2014

A mere 10 days after publishing the Washington Post article, Jason Rezaian, the paper’s bureau chief in Tehran, was arrested at his home on unspecified charges. After almost 10 months of detention Iranian authorities indicted him on charges of “espionage” and “propaganda against the establishment.”

His trial, which began on May 26, is not open to the public (NYT, May 26), and is being presided over by a judge on a European Union blacklist for human rights abuses (The Atlantic, July 22), ended earlier this month (BBC, August 10). At the time of writing these lines Rezaian – who holds US citizenship – is awaiting the court’s verdict, which could impose up to 20 years in prison.

All this took place under the regime of the allegedly “pragmatic and progressive” rule of President Hassan Rouhani.

A stinging humiliation for the US – unless…

If I were a US taxpayer I would be seriously cheesed off at the Obama administration for making such hopelessly ineffective use of my hard-earned dollars.

After all, the US federal government has a staggering amount of resources at its disposal – $3 trillion-$3.5 trillion made available to it by the American working public each year. Yet with all this power in its hands, it conducted itself almost as a fawning supplicant in the negotiations with the Islamic Republic over its nuclear program, which culminated in a stinging humiliation for Washington.

How else could one designate a deal which:

• Makes a mockery of previously unequivocally declared US objectives, such as to coerce Iran to “give up its nuclear program” (Barack Obama, October 2012), or induce Iran to “dismantle its nuclear program” (John Kerry, December 2013);

• Not only confers on Iran equal standing with the US in the Joint Commission, the body designated to oversee the implementation of the deal, but gives it effective veto power over most of its decisions, which “are to be made by consensus [e]xcept as stated otherwise”;

• Precludes US inspectors from verifying Iranian compliance;

• Permits Iran to self-test suspicious sites with its own personnel;

• Makes concessions to Iran on nonnuclear issues (such as missile technology and conventional arms) but demands no reciprocal concessions from Iran on nonnuclear issues (such as terrorism and human rights);

• Specifies verification procedures so cumbersome they could easily have been purposely devised to allow Iranian violations to go undetected; and

• Allows Iran to achieve all its objectives it set itself (albeit at a possibly reduced rate), and prevents the US from achieving any of its own – unless the US public has been gravely misled as to what the nature of those objectives were.

Obama: Iran understands they cannot fight us…

The disproportionate achievements of Iran and the capitulation of the US on virtually every point of principle, reflected in the far from exhaustive list above, are even more incongruous when one compares the fundamental parameters of the two nations.

The US GDP outstrips Iran’s by a factor of more than 40, its per capita GDP is 10 times higher, it has over four times the population of Iran, and is six times its size.

But perhaps the most significant comparison concerns military prowess.

This massive disparity was reflected in Barack Obama’s interview with the New York Times columnist Tom Friedman on April 5 – when the kind of concessions concluded in July were still unthinkable… or at least unmentionable.

In elaborating on his approach to Iran, Obama declared: “Iran’s defense budget is $30 billion. Our defense budget is closer to $600 billion. Iran understands that they cannot fight us…”

It seems that the US commander-in-chief was greatly understating the military imbalance between the US and Iran – one hopes not because he was greatly uninformed.

For most published estimates put the Iranian defense budget at between $14b. and $18b. – or 2% to 3% of the US defense budget, which Obama got roughly right.

In response to Friedman’s question: “Do you believe they [the Iranians] are undeterrable,” Obama retorted, “That is simply not the case.”


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