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US Moving Toward Strategic Alienation with Iran

Interview with Mohammad Farhad Koleini, Senior Expert on Strategic Issues
Source: Iranian Diplomacy (IRD); translated by: Iran Review.Org

What message intensification of Iran sanctions is meant to convey?

Although the US Secretary of State John Kerry had already requested the United States Congress to avoid passing new sanctions against Iran before the results of the upcoming presidential poll become available, approval of new sanctions against Iran and the Nuclear Iran Prevention Act by the House of Representatives’ Committee on Foreign Relations proved that the American lawmakers have not taken Kerry’s request seriously. Meanwhile, John Kerry slammed the whole process of Iran presidential election and disqualification of election hopefuls during his recent visit to Tel Aviv last Friday. Now, is it logical to assume that the United States had previously pinning its hopes on changing political arrangements in Iran, but has currently given up that hope? This and similar questions have been posed to Mohammad Farhad Koleini, an analyst of international issues, in an interview the full text of which follows.

Q: The United States House of Representatives’ Committee on Foreign Relations has unanimously passed the Nuclear Iran Prevention Act. How important can the approval of this act be and what consequences it may have for Iran?

A: The US Congress continues to move along the line of its old policy to exert pressures on Iran in order to bring about overthrow of Iran's government through attrition and in a gradual manner. This approach [by the US Congress] is only slightly different in terms of tactics from the official statements made by the Obama administration. The approval of this new bill by the US House Committee on Foreign Relations has its root in a clear strategy. Based on this strategy, the US Congress has been, and still is, mulling more than 110 plans and bills and legislations against Iran. Today, the path of unilateralism is being revived by the Congress through imposing unilateral sanctions on Iran. As a result, the issue of Iran is currently not only influenced by destructive pressures exerted by the Israeli lobby, American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), but is also being used as a bargaining chip in the confrontation between hegemonic Republicans and their ambitious Democrat rivals who aspire domination in multilateral international system.

The reason behind the approval of the new bill is to restrict Iran's resources and capabilities and this is quite evident from the content of the bill and the type of sentences used in it. Such decisions are indications of a forthcoming hard economic attack on Iran. It would suffice for the readers to go over the detailed discussions of the recent meeting of the US House of Representatives’ Committee on Foreign Relations and draw their own conclusions.

The existing trend of passing such bills at the House of Representatives also aims to make the public opinion recognize and consider as normal Washington’s policy of pressure against Iran. This is another step taken in order to mount pressures on the Islamic Republic in various fields. The effort made by the US lawmakers to increase pressures on Iran has nothing to do with the failure [of Iran and the P5+1 group] to reach an agreement through the first and second rounds of talks in [the Kazakh city of] Almaty. In practice, this policy which is currently in vogue among the US lawmakers, aims to create a situation of strategic alienation with Iran. This policy is mainly being advocated by the pro-Israeli AIPAC lobby in order to fan the flames of further discord between Iran and the United States, though this trend is actually to the detriment of regional and global interests of Washington.

In view of the forthcoming presidential election in Iran and positions taken by the American officials on the internal affairs of the Islamic Republic, one may reach the conclusion that such efforts by the US lawmakers should be used as a signpost by the new Iranian administration. It goes without saying that more importance should be attached to the policy of resistance [against the United States] in Iran's foreign policy approaches. Therefore, I really doubt that high-ranking Iranian officials would easily treat such a lack of foresight among the US officials with indifference.

Q: While the US Secretary of State John Kerry had already asked the US Congress to postpone passing any new sanctions against Iran until after the forthcoming presidential election in the country, the new sanctions have been notwithstanding passed by the House Committee on Foreign Relations. Is it imaginable that the approval of new sanctions is, in fact, to the opposite of the actual policy that the United States administration means to pursue toward Iran?

A: The behavior of the political section of the US administration is totally at odds with the conduct of its economic section. Many of the previous political officials of the United States as well as some foreign policy officials, as reflected in their statements, have repeatedly underlined the importance of boosting interaction with other countries in various fields. However, as you know, the United States Treasury's Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David S. Cohen, who took part in the House Committee on Foreign Relations hearing, discussed previous sanctions against Iran while proposing new methods to mount pressure on the Islamic Republic.

On the other hand, I am really surprised at the positions taken by Ms. Wendy Sherman, the US Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs. When speaking in her diplomatic capacity, Sherman talks in positive terms and appears to be trying to control confrontation, but before the lawmakers, she talks in a totally different manner. Such behaviors are good examples which put renewed emphasis on the need [for the American officials] to build confidence [with Iran] and avoid using double standards. This is where the United States tactical approach to elections in Iran comes to the fore. On the other hand, the seasoned American diplomat, James Francis Dobbins, was recently appointed as new US Special Envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan. In his articles and positions, Dobbins has always underlined Iran's key role in regional developments and has taken a critical approach to the United States vacillating policy on Iran. Now, one must see what complete picture would come out of combining the whole collection of these contradictory positions.

There are special sectors in the United States politics which actually do not want the President Barack Obama to have the upper hand [in US politics] and this is not limited to Iran, but has been evident in other areas of the United States foreign policy. The opposition of the Republicans [to Obama’s approach to Russia] and their insistence on the continuation of the policy of confrontation between the United States and Russia is an example to the point.

Q: The US Secretary of State John Kerry took part in a press conference in Tel Aviv on Friday during which he harshly criticized the whole process of elections in Iran, including the process of vetting the candidates for their qualifications. Kerry noted that he was “amazed” by the process of vetting presidential candidates in Iran, adding, “That is hardly an election by which most people in most countries judge free, fair and accessible, accountable elections.” Can his remarks be taken as a sign that the United States has lost hope in the election of a moderate administration through the forthcoming election, which would want to reach a compromise with the West?

A: Mr. John Kerry had in the past clearly noted that the government in Iran is elected by people, but today, he gives himself the right to criticize the election process in the country. He must be reminded that Iran elections belong to the Iranian people. It is for the people of Iran to safeguard their country’s national interests as well as their values, determine their future course and destiny, and also to elect whoever they want [as their president]. The sphere of political power in Iran is not limited and governance has its own characteristics. As I have explained elsewhere, the issue of [Iran's relations with] the United States is not very much dependent on the decision of any incumbent administration because the head of the Executive [in Iran] does not have the last say on this issue. The quality of interactions between Iran and the United States is finally determined by the country’s large-scale policies and in accordance with its national interests within the framework set by the Leader of the Islamic Revolution [Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei].

... Payvand News - 05/28/13 ... --

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