by Yusuf Fernandez, source
There is no doubt that many people in the world welcomed US Vice President John Biden´s statement, made during the recent Munich security conference, that his country was willing to have bilateral contacts with Iran, which many consider crucial in order to put an end to the dispute over Iran´s nuclear program.
At the same time, President Barack Obama´s decision to nominate Senator Chuck Hagel as the new Secretary of Defence, despite the pro-Israeli Right´s allegations that he is too “soft” on Iran, was also well-received by many American circles thinking that it is time to initiate a new phase in the US policy towards Iran. Obama´s choice for Secretary of State, Senator John Kerry, was also praised by some media outlets because he is considered a “realist” in foreign policy in open contrast to the hawkish positions of Hillary Clinton.
Nowadays, more and more people in the US and Europe are aware of the failure of the US and European coercive policies, which have not prevented Iran from pursuing its civilian nuclear program. US and European sanctions are trying to bar any type of commerce between Iran and other countries and prevent the access of this country to the international banking system. However, Western governments, in their arrogance, have forgotten that there are many countries and companies in the world that are not willing to cave in to US pressure.
At the same time, the sanctions have become an opportunity for Iran to develop its self-sufficiency in many spheres and create an alternative commerce and a new banking system that do not depend on the dollar or Western rules. On the other hand, Iran has access to many markets, including the Russia, China and India ones, all of them being rising economic powers and with a clear political interest in supporting Iran in order to prevent the US from expanding its influence in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf and damaging their own interests. Iran has also developed good political and economic relations with all its neighbours, particularly Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan and others.
Some US experts are claiming that only honest diplomacy with Iran and the end of the economic pressure could make a breakthrough in nuclear negotiations. Sanctions will not succeed for many reasons and by betting on them, the US has already set the scenario for a new failure in the next negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 in Almaty (Kazakhstan). Iranian people are nationalist and patriotic and they will not bow to pressure. In fact, and despite the damage they have caused in the Iranian economy, sanctions have actually strengthened Iranian people´s support for the nuclear program, which is now considered an important national symbol, as a recent Gallup poll has showed.
Therefore, the US Administration is deeply wrong if it thinks that sanctions will lead Iran to end its nuclear program. Iran has consistently showed that it is willing to reach an agreement and has allowed international inspectors to monitor its nuclear facilities. But it is not willing to bow to illogical US and Western demands.
Any Western offer should recognize the fact that Iran has made continuos progress in the nuclear field. It has managed to convert the enriched uranium into plates and it means that the country already possesses an independent fuel cycle. All these activities are completely legal according to the rules of the Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). In this sense, a full recognition of Iran´s right to enrich uranium would be a necessary starting point for any serious offer.
At the same time, the offer should also require a calendar for the lifting of economic sanctions. Some statements by Western experts and politicians speak of “relaxing or reducing” the scope of the sanctions but a final agreement should include a timetable to completely remove these illegal and inmoral sanctions.
Some experts see Israel and the Zionist lobby in the US as the largest obstacles for a change in the US policies towards Iran. Israel is completely opposed to any US-Iran agreement that preserves Iran´s nuclear program and it can use the pro-Israeli lobby and its influence over US congressmen, many of whom are bought and paid for by AIPAC, in order to torpedo the negotiation process and any deal.
Doubts on Obama´s sincerity
On the other hand, there are doubts about how sincere Obama is, despite all his empty rhetoric, in pursuing a new policy, especially taking into account the recent US decision to increase the sanctions and Obama´s background on Iran. Some experts warn that President Obama could actually discredite engagement by claiming that he tried but failed to reach out to Iran when the truth is that he has never seriously tried. Since 2009, the Obama administration has taken part in many nuclear talks with Iran and it has used Iran´s rejection to surrender to its demands as a reason to impose more and more brutal sanctions on this country.
“Most of Obama´s so-called diplomacy with Iran has been predicated on intimidation, illegal threats of military action, unilateral ‘crippling’ sanctions, sabotage, and extrajudicial killings of Iran´s brightest minds,” wrote an Iran expert, Reza Nasri, in the site pbs.org. This, despite a consensus in the US intelligence community that Tehran is not developing a nuclear weapon and has not made the political decision to do so.
In a recent article in the New York Times, columnist Roger Cohen quoted the book “The Dispensable Nation” by Vali Nasr, who spent two years working for the Obama administration before becoming dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. In the book, Nasr shows Obama´s ambivalence about any deal on the nuclear program. “Pressure has become an end in itself”, he wrote.
“The dual track of ever tougher sanctions combined with diplomatic outreach was not even dual. It relied on one track, and that was pressure,” said Nasr. “Engagement was a cover for a coercive campaign of sabotage, economic pressure and cyberwarfare.”
In this sense, some analysts consider that Obama is currently promoting another half-baked inflexible strategy still based on coertion and threats, and, as a result, it will fall short of achieved the desired results as the other ones that preceded it.
The joke of the “gold” offer
Unfortunately, those analysts seem to be right. A recent strange Western offer under which Iran would be “allowed” to take part in international commerce using gold if it shuts down the Fordo uranium enrichment and which largely leaves sanctions intact is just a joke. Firstly, the incentive here is almost non-existent and, secondly, it is based on the principle that Iran does not have a right to a peaceful nuclear program, although it actually does according to the IAEA rules.
The ridiculous nature of the offer and the huge demands that it contain make it difficult to imagine it would be accepted. If this is what the West has to offer to Iran, then it is right to raise questions about what is the true strategy that Western policy-makers are preparing for the approaching talks in Kazakhstan.
In this sense, some analysts are pessimistic after knowing that the new Western offer that will be presented in the Almaty talks will be very similar to the one that was rejected by Iran last year. The West insists that Iran should put an end to uranium enrichment to the 20% level, send its stocks of this material abroad and close the Fordo plant. At the same time, Tehran would be offered a limited relaxing of sanctions, but not the end of the oil embargo. Clearly, this offer is totally insufficient for Tehran.
However, the US is wrong if it thinks that a nuclear deal would be favorable only to Iran. In reality, the pressure on Iran takes place in a context where the US´s position in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf is in free fall. The failed wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the support for the continuos Israeli occupation of Arab territories, the war on terror, which targets Muslim populations everywhere, and the threats against Iran are fuelling intense anti-American sentiments. If the US keeps on threatening another Muslim country over some weapons of mass destruction that it does not have, the blowback against US economic and political interests will be disastrous.
The only thing that will work in the negotiations and for the US Administration itself is to acknowledge Iran´s rights -including uranium enrichment- and respect its interests. If the US accepts that its previous strategy towards Iran was wrong and shows that it is ready for a real change, based on a realist, non-hostile and honest approach, it would pave the way for a permanent solution of the nuclear question and other security-related issues in the region and the world.