By Mahmoud Reza Golshanpazhooh, Executive Editor of Iran Review
The upcoming negotiations between Iran and P5+1 Group - consisting of the US, the UK, France, Russia, China + Germany - as it has been formally announced will be held on 13 April this year. During the period between the last round of negotiations which took place in Istanbul and the one approaching, significant developments have occurred that each of them can play a determining role in the policy positions and orientations of the negotiating parties. The United States and Europe have extended the scope of the sanctions against the Islamic Republic of Iran in an unprecedented way under the pretext of compelling the country to desist its nuclear activities and they have also boycotted all transactions with the Central Bank of Iran. This case not only is to be applied to European and American companies but it also embraces all other governments and companies around the world. Describing these sanctions as smart, the West believes that the final impact of the embargoes will lead either to the uprising of the Iranian people against their government or to the abandonment of nuclear initiative by Iran's government because of the impossibility of economic interactions between Iranian political establishment and outside world. In return, the Iranian side has trump cards such as Iranian scientists’ success in producing 20-percent enriched Uranium and thus obviating the need to import uranium for use in the Tehran research reactor; the unprecedented increase of the oil price in the world; continuation of Iran's advancements in scientific and applied fields such as launching research satellites into the space; and the rare 64 percent participation of the Iranian people in the parliamentary elections which can be interpreted in one way or another as supporting the political establishment and the values of Iran's revolution, and also indifference towards the Western sanctions.
Though there are other influential factors such as the future orientation of the uprisings and awakening in the Arab world and their effect upon the increasing role of “Islam” in the equations in the Middle East, Israel’s unprecedentedly destabilized situation in the region and relations with regional actors, the increasing anti-war voices in the world particularly in virtual space, and the results and atmosphere caused by the upcoming US presidential election, regarding the domain of impact of these factors in comparison with those mentioned earlier, these latter factors are of secondary importance both for Iran and the West.
In sum, the developments in the recent months have made the opening and the atmosphere of the negotiations more complicated and uncertain. It shows that the West, trusting the impact of the sanctions and intentional propaganda and scenario building in order to spread Iranophobia, presume that it has the upper hand in the forthcoming negotiations, while Iran has also acquired more strong and justifiable reasons for its lack of trust to the West and thus, in normal situation it is predictable that the negotiations will lead to no tangible results.
However, if one adopts a more positive view which is aimed at solving the problem, spaces and chances can be found to help the success of this round of negotiations and reduce the tensions between the two parties. The three points raised in this comment piece arise from the author’s characteristically Iranian perspective as well as from a positive approach which is coupled with the belief of the possibility of achieving a fair solution to the problem, and will result in a win-win game for both sides: Iran and the United States and the Europe.
The United States should abandon the mentality of “trying to eliminate Iran from the regional equations” which is not at all consistent with the existing reality, and adopt a strategic approach towards Iran's sovereignty and its undeniable geopolitical role. In order to formulate policies in place of the current destructive policies, it is necessary for the West to take a strategic and holistic approach towards the regional issues and utilize the Islamic Republic of Iran's capabilities and capacities in solving regional issues in Iraq, Afghanistan and even Pakistan. As long as Iran is feeling insecure about the existence and presence of 43 US bases around its territory, the vicious circle of insecurity will continue to remain and the final picture which can be envisaged in these circumstances would only reflect one phrase which is lack of confidence and misunderstanding.
The two sides involved in this round of negotiations should commit themselves to reaching a tangible result based on a win-win diplomacy. Although hearing the two parties enunciations that the negotiations have been constructive and are going to continue in the future can have significant implications and include a wide range of measures upon which the two parties have preferred to make agreements without propagating them via the media, it cannot be compared with an officially written agreement. Such an agreement may just consist of a few paragraphs reflecting the two sides’ mutual understanding of each other and their efforts to create an atmosphere of mutual understanding. If the two sides prove that the result of the negotiations has been based upon problem-solving approach and they are indeed looking for a fair agreement, it can obviate an important part of the current negative atmosphere. The atmosphere which according to an Iranian expert’s view is more based on electoral ado and Iraophobic policies of arms companies’ owners and media moguls rather than the reality.
Another basic point is that of the sanctions. Some American experts believe that imposing sanctions on Iran is regarded as the only option for Obama in order to avoid the outbreak of a war against Iran. From this viewpoint Obama faces a number of realities: first of all he is unwilling to enter another war in the region, second Obama is afraid of Israel’s attack to Iran and therefore is trying to assure the belligerents in Israel that Iran will not achieve the technology of constructing nuclear bomb, and finally he maintains that the only option left to deal with Iran is the policy of sanctions, a policy which in his view should be so strict and restrictive as to finally pressure Iran into submitting to the United States’ demands respecting its nuclear activities.
However, one point has been ignored and that is inattention to the Iranian attitude. The United States is well aware that Iran which is surrounded by several nuclear states and also nearly 43 US bases around its borders is absolutely right to be concerned and to feel threatened and to try to strengthen its defense capabilities. Israel’s behaviour towards its neighbours and even the global community (for instance in its inattention to many of the institutions of United Nations’ resolutions) in the past six decades has not helped calm the situation. Meanwhile, the only thing left is the risk Iran would run by trusting the promises and commitments of the United States or the other countries in the P5+1 Group, a practice that has proven a bitter experience for the Iranians with respect to the West’s behaviour in managing Iran's nuclear issue during the presidency of Mohammad Khatami and even after that regarding the issue of the modality plan.
If one adds to this complex matter Iranians’ bitter memory of the hostile treatment of the United States and a number of European countries, which supported Saddam Hussein in his 8-year-long war against Iran, then no room will be left for Iran to be able to “trust the West.” The United States should abandon giving “sheer promises while making continuous threats spreading propaganda against Iran and promoting Iranophobia in the region,” and understand this fact if only for first time that utilizing a policy which embraces all the factors above will not lead to an agreement with Iran. In the most recent parliamentary election, the Iranians demonstrated that they are supporting the values of their revolution. This does not mean the denial of the pressure caused by the sanctions upon the Iranian people, however, the 64-percent public participation in the election, in a transparent and objective way rejects the assumption that external pressure may lead to regime change in Iran. One should not forget that the Iranian people do not have a good memory of any policy adopted by the United States and Europe in the past decades and this memory will not change into a good memory by the increase of pressure and threats. If the West tries to come out of the tactical phase and mull over strategic and long term implications of the establishment of a calm atmosphere in the region - an argument I made six years ago in anarticle published in openDemocracy - needs to adopt, through the correct and unbiased understanding of this Iranian mentality, an approach based on the fair settlement of the issue in the upcoming negotiations. Otherwise, there will be no hope that these negotiations will yield satisfactory results.
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