By R.K. Ramazani (Distributed by Agence Global; published here with the permission of the author)
Despite the ever-louder drum beat of war, for the first time in more than a year Iran declared in a letter last week that it was ready “for dialogue at the earliest possibility,” and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton welcomed the letter as “an important step.”
Skeptics will likely say, instead of seriously engaging in negotiations Iran would play for time to advance its nuclear program. But to avert war it is necessary to negotiate, especially because this is the most opportune time -- neither has Iran yet decided to make nuclear weapons, nor has Israel yet determined to strike militarily Iran’s nuclear facilities.
The ultimate goal of negotiations would be to stop Iran from becoming a nuclear-armed state, but the immediate objective would be to deny it the option of reaching a level of nuclear capability that would make it possible for Iran to convert nuclear energy to nuclear weapons if it decided to do so.
To achieve such an objective, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany (the P5+1 nations) would likely demand that Iran commit itself to enrich uranium only to a level that is needed for peaceful uses of nuclear energy such as for producing electricity under the auspices of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The Agency would have unhindered access to all Iranian nuclear sites for inspection and verification at times of its choosing.
Iran would likely demand in return that the P5+1 nations acknowledge unambiguously its legitimate right as a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to enrich uranium for civilian uses on its own territory. It would also demand that they lift sanctions and that the United States would unfreeze Iranian assets.
No such a deal, however, could be achieved, I would argue, unless the United States would be prepared to pledge solemnly to Iran that it will not seek to change the regime of the Islamic Republic of Iran. This would be a tall order for the Obama administration because it has kept the threat of regime change in its toolbox of pressuring Iran to negotiate. But now that Iran is ready to talk it is necessary for the United States to take serious note of Iran’s demand for such a pledge.
The demand is that of no less a person than the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. He believes, as did Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founding father of the Islamic Republic of Iran, that as Iran’s arch enemy, the United States is bent on changing the regime, because the Iranian Revolution destroyed the decades-old US domination of Iran during the Shah’s regime. America is a sore loser, he thinks, not only because it lost Iran, but also because it had to relinquish its single most important strategic asset in the Middle East -- Iran as the American spy on the Soviet border, the best regional friend of Israel, and the policeman of the Persian Gulf.
To his mind, the US policy against Iran’s nuclear program is the chief instrument of the goal of regime change, and sanctions are the same tools today as they have been ever since the eruption of the Iranian Revolution, when the United States led the Western powers to cancel their longtime nuclear aid contracts with Iran and Washington began to impose economic sanctions on Iran.
The ongoing Western efforts to impose paralyzing sanctions against the Iranian financial system and oil exports, the assassination of Iranian nuclear scientists, covert operations, sabotage of Iranian centrifuges, discussions on regime change in the US and Israeli corridors of power, remarks by such Western leaders as Tony Blair that what makes a nuclear Iran dangerous "is the nature of the regime itself,” the assertion by former IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei that instead of seeking to solve the nuclear dispute the United States aims at regime change, and the ever shrill threats of military strikes on Iran’s nuclear facilities, all seem to confirm Khamenei’s nuclear narrative.
|R.K. Ramazani is the Edward R. Stettinius Professor Emeritus of Government and Foreign Affairs at the University of Virginia where he pioneered Iranian foreign policy studies in the United States six decades ago.|
The offer of a US pledge of no regime change could be the single most important incentive given to Iran to go the farthest it has ever gone to compromise on core nuclear issues. The US reluctance to offer such a pledge would risk the breakdown of negotiations and the increasing threat of a war that would be catastrophic for US, Iranian and Israeli interests.
Copyright © 2012 R.K. Ramazani -- distributed by Agence Global
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