Paradigmatic shift of Iran-US relations-IV
1: Professor seyed Abdolali GHAVAM (MA,MAPA,M.LITT,ph.D)
2: Sanaz Tabe Afshar (Ph.D candidate of IR &political analyst)
3: Nushin Mirzai Jegarlui(Ph.D candidate of IR)
The possibility of negotiations
It should be mentioned, at least some of antagonistic postures of Iranian dominant paradigm against the US were derived from the American mistaken policies towards Iran both in the past and even in postrevolution era. The US maintained economic, political, and military support for Pahlavi regime almost until its last days offended the Iranians’ esteem and independence. The US more powerful drive – comparing with other liberal countries- to introduce the Western norms and values as the dominant patterns of international system also has further strengthened the cause of dominant discourse in its opposition to US . The same point was implicated by George W. Bush in his statement in US congress as:
“The US is the sole nation in the world that enjoys both ethical values and means to deliver and support the existing world order”.
In its antagonism towards the US (and the West) and quest to fulfill the aspiration of Islamic unified nation (Ummah) and emancipate it from the material and mental barriers of Western civilization, the dominant discourse sought to define its objectives in Islamic terms, literature and culture and replace the existing ‘isms’ and democracy with Islamic temonologies! (Ehteshami, A. 1995)
Delivering a Noruz message to the Iranian people,on March 2012,Barak Obama recommended if Iran pursues a responsible path,it will be welcomed among the community of the nations.( Sanaz Tabeafshar.2012)This path is the sign of Obama administration ‘s so called passionate determination to negotiate with Iran.In other words offering the Iranian leaders a respectful path of out of their predicament ,that path is defined as complete Iranian acquiesce to Washington’s demand on its nuclear issue.Obviously ,he wants the surrender of Iran,then the negotiations.This one -sided narrative is Obama’s rationality which along with the twin policy of ratching up sanctions and the covert actions against Iran,are likely to fuel Iran’s deeply rooted belief that the US cannot be trusted.It is a historic time for the US and Iran to negotiate not only on the nuclear issue,but also on every matter that fulfills the common interests of the both countries because Iran has shifted from a marginal power to an active one in the region.For many reasons,Iran is a major actor.
First ,in the course of Afghanistan the war has been under way for more than 10 years which has made it the longest large-scale,multi –divisional war fought in American history.The core argument of this war was the defeat of Taliban, but success would not end the war because terrorism and its supporters would be a constantly shifting threat ,both in places and in the ways they operate. Therefore since it was essential to defeat terrorism ,despite the strategic deal between the U.S and Afghan government ,the U.S is now engaging in a long war whose end was distant and course unknown.As a neighbor of Afghanistan , Iran’s primary objectives are to secure its eastern flank by stablizing the country which sends a steady flow of illicit weapons, narcotic, refugees and migrants into its territory. To do so, Tehran has funded several transporting and infrastructural projects in western Afghanistan which has created a sphere of influence and a security buffer zone in the industrial heart of Afghanistan.
In this juncture, the interest of the U.S and Iran coincide as it did in 2001 when both countries sent military, advisors and weapons to help the Northern Alliances fight the Taliban. That was the most constructive period of US –Iranian diplomacy since the Islamic revolution .Although Iran played a constructive role in Bonn conference process in 2002,the situation was dramatically changed with Bush’s listing Iran among the axis of evil over its nuclear issue. President Obama should try to avoid the same mistake made by bush. Iran, showing a great record of cooperation and rationality deserves to be brought back to the negotiating table. Undoubtedly, Iran is far more rational than the so called moderate Taliban Needless to mention that moderate Taliban means moderate killers.
Second, after the withdrawal of the US troops from Iraq ,Iran has moved to a potentially dominant power. Countering Iranian power which was the responsibility of the US military, now falls to diplomatic, foreign-aid and intelligence functions conducted by a host of US agencies stationed at the US Embassy in Baghdad and consulates in Basra,Kirkuk and Arbil.As a mood of fiscal austerity takes hold in Washington,it is likely that the budget for foreign affairs and diplomatic security will be cut and a new security bust cycle will occur which,in long term will lead to the reduction of security programs in Iraq.Such reductions will also require cuts in the overall size of a diplomatic mission unless a dramatic change happens between Iran and the US.
Third, in the context of Arab springs and the Syrian crises ,Turkey can’t be the model exporter any longer. Erdughan owns his popularity on Arab streets to his anti-Israel rhetorics and Israel bashing .Turkey has to fix Kurds issues otherwise it will probably face a new domestic uprising called “Kurd Springs” .It is worth noting that after the crackdown of the Bahraini and Yemeni people by the Us- Saudi backed forces, the vertex of US_Saudi has declined. On the other hand the elections of Egypt and Tunis was not what the US expected.
To sum up, after the withdrawal of the American troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, the Arab spring and the isolation of Turkey, the territorial swath controlled by Iran has extended from the Western Afghanistan up to the Mediterranean Sea. Needless to say ,with or without any so called nuclear bomb, Iran’s direct or indirect way of pursuing its foreign policy has, according to Greg Bruno of the council of Foreign Relations ,made it “a veto holding power on the Middle Eastern peace”. That’s why Iran is a major actor. (Sanaz Tabeafshar2012)
It should be mentioned that apart from being a major actor ,Iran is rational too.The rationality has two economic and legal aspects.The economic aspect of the rationality means that Iran is trying to balance costs against benefits to arrive at action that maximizes its advantage.Making a so called nuclear bomb will lead to a military race among the neighboring states which would fire whole the region by destabilizing it. No rational country seeks unstability Therefore,Iran’s nuclear program is rationally peaceful.The other aspect of rationality is Iran’s constitution and legislative body.Every Strategic decision needs the consensus of these two legal institutions.No matter how harsh the sanctions are ,no rational country with a transcendental subject(law and legislative body )will turn away from pursuing its strategic decisions(i.e.,uranium enrichment)
Needless to say that, being loyal to MPT,Iran legally deserves to pursue its peaceful nuclear activities.
Compared to rational Iran,the West’s decision on imposing sanctions on Iran is not rational.The debt_ridden Europe ramped up sanctions regardless to the fact that not only oil prices would spike exponentially,further sabotaging world market,but also it would damage its fragile economic recovery .It’s worth noting that the sanctions on Iran are simply not that onerous with the Russian and Chinese not cooperating and the US being forced to allow the Japanese and others not to participate fully.On the other hand by imposing sanctions, Washington is pushing Iran toward US major rivals ,China and Russia!
The latest remarks of General Dempsy on Iran’s rationality and obama’s offered path might be good signs of the west’s willingness to rethink its stale policy and talk to Iran. (Sanaz Tabeafshar,Mellat online)Those rhetorics are nice but, Mr Obama ought to do something practically.To do so he should accept the fact that Iran is a rational actor,and rationally, the political equality and the supervision of the international law are the fundamental preconditions for rational Iran to come back to the negotiating table.
This is a historic opportunity for Iran. It is the first moment in which no outside power is in a direct position to block Iran militarily or politically. Whatever the pain of sanctions, trading that moment for lifting the sanctions would not be rational. The threat of Iranian influence is the problem, and Iran would not trade that influence for an end to sanctions. So assuming the nuclear issue was to go away, what exactly is the United States prepared to offer?
The United States has assured access to oil from the Persian Gulf — not only for itself, but also for the global industrial world — since World War II. It does not want to face a potential interruption of oil for any reason, like the one that occurred in 1973. Certainly, as Iran expands its influence, the possibility of conflict increases, along with the possibility that the United States would intervene to protect its allies in Arabia from Iranian-sponsored subversion or even direct attack. The United States does not want to intervene in the region. It does not want an interruption of oil. It also does not want an extension of Iranian power. It is not clear that Washington can have all three. Iran wants three things, too.
First, it wants the United States to reduce its presence in the Persian Gulf dramatically. Having seen two U.S. interventions against Iraq and one against Afghanistan, Iran is aware of U.S. power and the way American political sentiment can shift. It experienced the shift from Jimmy Carter to Ronald Reagan, so it knows how fast things can change. Tehran sees the United States in the Persian Gulf coupled with U.S. and Israeli covert operations and destabilization campaigns as an unpredictable danger to Iranian national security.
Second, the Iranians want to be recognized as the leading power in the region. This does not mean they intend to occupy any nation directly. It does mean that Iran doesn’t want Saudi Arabia, for example, to pose a military threat against it.
Third, Iran wants a restructuring of oil revenue in the region. How this is formally achieved — whether by allowing Iranian investment in Arabian oil companies (possibly financed by the host country) or some other means — is unimportant.
What does matter is that the Iranians want a bigger share of the region’s vast financial resources.
The United States doesn’t want a conflict with Iran. Iran doesn’t want one with the United States. Neither can be sure how such a conflict would play out. The Iranians want to sell oil. The Americans want the West to be able to buy oil. The issue really comes down to whether the United States wants to guarantee the flow of oil militarily or via a political accommodation with the country that could disrupt the flow of oil — namely, Iran. That in turn raises two questions. First, could the United States trust Iran? And second, could it live with withdrawing the American protectorate on the Arabian Peninsula, casting old allies adrift?
When we listen to the rhetoric of American and Iranian politicians, it is difficult to imagine trust between them. But when we recall the U.S. alliance with Stalin and Mao or the Islamic republic’s collaboration with the Soviet Union, we find rhetoric is a very poor guide. Nations pursue their national interest, and while those interests are never eternal, they can be substantial. From a purely rhetorical point of view it is not always easy to tell which sides’ politicians are more colorful. It will be difficult to sell an alliance between the Great Satan and a founding member of the Axis of Evil to the respective public of each country, but harder things have been managed.
Iran’s ultimate interest is security against the United States and the ability to sell oil at a more substantial profit. (This would entail an easing of sanctions and a redefinition of how oil revenues in the region are distributed.) The United States’ ultimate interest is access to oil and manageable prices that do not require American military intervention. On that basis, Iranian and American interests are not that far apart.
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