By Jasmin Ramsey (source: LobeLog)
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry
(L) with Iranian FM Mohammad Javad Zarif (C) and
EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton
A member of Iran's parliament today criticized the
Rouhani government for transferring the nuclear negotiating file from the
Supreme National Security Council to the Foreign Ministry because he believes FM
Mohammad Javad Zarif sold Iran short on the recent interim deal he achieved in
"It has now become clear to many that the negotiations team under the
leadership of Mr. Zarif has given the maximum concessions and received the
trivial minimum of concessions," said
Tehran MP Hamid Resaei.
Resaei is a conservative cleric with little influence these days, but his
words could have easily come from more prominent Iranian hardliners. While they
lost the upper hand in Iranian politics after their failure to effectively unite
in producing an appealing presidential candidate, the potential for them to
regain major influence continues to hang over today's Iran, which has seen change since
Hassan Rouhani became President.
"Iranians have effectively capped their program for now and if there is no
concrete economic impact as a result of the agreement soon, then these voices
will become louder and reach a greater audience," said Farideh Farhi, an expert
It is this potential that US policy and law makers who want an enduring deal
with Iran over its nuclear program which addresses key US concerns should be
considering when deciding on strategy. While the US' own hardliners continue to
insist that Iran only understands the language of force, the fact remains that
Washington currently has a cooperative partner in Tehran that currently enjoys
the backing of Iran's Supreme Leader. Squandering the opportunity to effectively
work with the Rouhani administration will result in a far more advanced Iranian
nuclear program under hardliner control and an increased threat of military
conflict. But the US can counter these possibilities by weakening the Iranian
hardline narrative against dealing with the West through various means of
international engagement that will empower the Rouhani government's pragmatic
policy positions, according to a report
released today by the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), a DC-based
organization that advocates US-Iran rapprochement.
"[C]oncrete action to fundamentally disprove a core tenant of the hardline
narrative - the idea that the West is inherently against the scientiﬁc
advancement of Iran - will significantly strengthen the positive-sum
narrative in ways that facilitate a larger agreement with Iran and help prevent
a resurgence of the confrontational policies of the hardliners," states the
Hands and Unclenching Fists." Authors Bijan Khajehpour, Reza Marashi and
Trita Parsi - who offer a combined range of scholarly, economic and US policy
expertise on Iran - have consulted with key Iranian figures in identifying 7
projects through which this goal can be achieved with no proliferation risks,
including an US/EU-Iran Science Summit.
The report, which was supported by the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs
and private donors in the Iranian-American community, offers specific
suggestions for weakening the Iranian hardline narrative against dealing with
To ensure that the summit will make a deep impact on the discourse in
Iran, the U.S. and its partners can work to secure the attendance
of prominent American and Iranian American personalities, such as Bill
Gates, Pierre Omidyar, or Omid Kordestani. The summit can be held in honor
of an ancient Iranian scientist such as Omar Khayyam or Abu Ali Sina (Ibn
Sina) in order to further disarm skeptics in Tehran. Collaboration in the
area of neuroscience is particularly promising. Iran has some of the most
advanced neuroscientists in the world, and American scientists in this ﬁeld
have expressed an interest in collaborating with their Iranian counterparts.
As acknowledged by the report, these initiatives will certainly be viewed
suspiciously by various Iranian actors given the dark history of the
US/UK-engineered coup of Iran's democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammad
Mossadeq in 1953 and more than a century of Western exploitation of Iranian
resources. Indeed, there are prominent voices in Iran with substantial
followings who will always oppose the country opening to the West, but they have
been marginalized since the June 2013 presidential election that saw a moderate,
pragmatic cleric - backed by reformist and centrist leaders - take power after 8
years of hardline rule.
"Hardliners in Iran still speak loudly, but they have lost their ability to
put an end to plans and programs just by speaking against them," said Farhi, a
NIAC advisory board member who just returned from a 3 month stay in Iran.
The independent scholar cited an EU parliamentary delegation's recent meeting
in Tehran with Jafar Panahi, a director who has been sentenced to 6 years in
jail and Nasrin Sotoudeh, a prominent rights' lawyer who was released in
September after 2 years imprisonment as evidence of the hardliners' weakened
hand. Both Panahi and Sotoudeh (who is especially critical of the government)
have been honored in the West for their advocacy efforts.
"There were shouts of sedition and so on but the meeting did happen in Iran's
new political environment and will have an impact on EU-Iran relations," she
"NIAC's suggestions regarding closer scientific cooperation may also face
loud objections from similar folks but Iran's new political environment will be
able to withstand and ignore these challenges with the concrete benefits of
these interactions on display," said Farhi.
About the Author: Jasmin Ramsey is the managing editor of LobeLog and a journalist with a special focus on US-Iran relations whose articles have appeared in numerous print and online publications including Inter Press Service, The Guardian, Al Jazeera English, Le Monde Diplomatique and Guernica Magazine. You can email her at email@example.com.
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