By Seyed Jalal Dehqani Firouzabadi, Professor of International Relations, Allameh Tabatabaei University, Tehran (Source: Tabnak News; Translated By: Iran Review.Org)
The new developments in Iran's relations with the United States which took place in the past few weeks, especially the diplomatic approach adopted by the Iranian delegation during its presence in New York [to attend the United Nations General Assembly session] have given rise to a lot of debates. One of the most serious debates has been about the impact that negotiations between Iran and the United States may have on the identity of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Will negotiations between Iran and the United States undermine and weaken the true identity of the Islamic Republic of Iran, or on the contrary, will they further stabilize and strengthen that identity? Different answers have been given to this question from different viewpoints, with proponents of every viewpoint giving a special reason for their answer.
However, before elaborating on these diverse views and in order to have a correct assessment of them, the main elements that determine the identity of the Islamic Republic of Iran should be reviewed in brief. According to the Iranian Constitution as well as the 20-Year Perspective Plan, the most important components and elements of Iran's identity include: “Being developed; ranking the first in the West Asia region in economic, scientific and technological terms; having an Islamic and revolutionary identity; being a source of inspiration [for other countries]; [being an] active and effective [player] in the Islamic world; engaged in constructive and effective interaction with the rest of the world on the basis of three principles of dignity, wisdom, and expediency; [being governed by] religious democracy; safe, independent and powerful; seeking freedom and justice; having strong commitment to ethics; influencing Islamic and regional convergence; fighting hegemony, which means to negate both states of imposing and accepting hegemony; supporting Muslims, the oppressed people, and freedom-seeking movements; [and] non-aligned with big [global] powers.”
In general, there are three different viewpoints with regard to possible impact of negotiations between Iran and the United States on the Islamic Republic’s true identity. These viewpoints include: pessimistic, optimistic, and realistic.
The pessimists are of the opinion that such negotiations, even at the present limited level, will lead to final weakening and destruction of the Islamic Republic of Iran's identity.
They give various reasons to support their pessimistic view, the most important of which are as follows:
1. The model of the Islamic Revolution, which has been, and still is, special to the Islamic Republic of Iran and has been one of the most important elements from which the true identity of the Islamic Republic comes forth, will be undermined through these negotiations.
2. Negotiations between Iran and the United States will enfeeble the Islamic Revolution discourse based on which the Islamic Republic of Iran has been established.
3. The [anti-hegemony and anti-Israel] resistance discourse, which is based on fighting the global hegemony and is among the main axes around which the Islamic Republic has taken shape, will certainly falter.
4. As a result of these negotiations, Iran's function as a progressive movement, which is manifest in its support for all the Muslims, the oppressed people, and freedom-seeking movements of the world, will be undermined in the Islamic Republic's foreign policy approach.
5. Negotiations between Iran and the United States will have very negative effects on the course of the Islamic Awakening in the region and the entire world of Islam.
6. The fight against the United States and global hegemony in the Middle East region will lose impetus.
7. The regional influence as well as the inspiring role of the Islamic Republic of Iran in the Islamic world will be diminished.
8. The grounds for the implementation of an indigenous and intrinsic model of progress based on the “resistance economy” will be eliminated and Iran's national economy will become conditional [on global economic situation].
This pessimistic viewpoint, analysts argue, is based on a special definition of and attitude toward the Iranian identity and represents a special approach to negotiations between Iran and the United States. As a result, it is founded on a number of presumptions:
1. The whole identity of the Islamic Republic of Iran is reduced to just one or two elements of its identity.
2. It believes that any negotiations between Iran and the United States would be viewed as the result of Iran's weakness, distress and desperation; instead of being the result of Iran's free choice and power.
3. Proponents of this viewpoint actually believe that any negotiations with the United States would be tantamount to compromise with and submission to the United States demands.
4. This viewpoint also presumes a definite loss for Iran in negotiations even before any talks have gotten underway.
5. Accepting such a viewpoint requires one to assume that fighting the United States is the most important aspect of the Islamic Republic of Iran and even the sole element which determines its true identity.
6. It also presumes that the national power and might of the Islamic Republic of Iran has remained static in the course of time.
On the other hand, the optimists argue that negotiations between Iran and the United States will not only do no harm to the true identity of the Islamic Republic of Iran, but will even bolster and strengthen that identity. They bring the following reasons to support their argument:
1. Negotiations between Iran and the United States will have a positive effect on the economic development of the country. This is true because the economic development model adopted by the Islamic Republic of Iran is an introspective model which has an eye on the outside world as well. In other words, it puts emphasis on the need to make the most of domestic resources while taking the best advantage of foreign resources as well. Therefore, negotiations with the United States will, at least, lead to the elimination of half of the existing foreign obstacles and restrictions on the way of Iran's development, which result from international sanctions against Iran and have practically barred the Islamic Republic from tapping international resources.
2. The removal of anti-Iran sanctions as a result of negotiations with the United States will help to promote the country to the first economic, scientific and technological rank in the region. This is also true because to achieve that goal, Iran needs to have good access to global markets, capital, and commodities.
3. Negotiations between Iran and the United States will strengthen the Islamic and revolutionary identity of Iran. This is true as such negotiations will actually indicate that the Islamic Republic, as an Islamic and revolutionary state, has reached such a high degree of security and power as a result of its constructive resistance that it is now capable of sitting for direct talks with the world’s sole superpower.
4. The negotiations will also boost Iran's position as a source of inspiration for the rest of the Islamic world because stabilization of the power and strength of the Islamic Republic will lead to the development and promotion of its political model throughout the region and across the entire world of Islam.
5. Negotiations with the United States constitute a striking example of constructive interaction with the rest of the world and this will further boost Iran's bargaining power in the region and the world.
6. Negotiations with the United States will reveal to the world the true democratic nature of the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is true as these negotiations will show to the world that one of the election promises of the new Iranian president has come true. Iran-US talks will show to the world that these negotiations, being an election promise of the president, are followed up freely and are also endorsed by the highest levels of the Islamic establishment.
7. Negotiations between Iran and the United States are indicative of the high level of security, power and independence of the Islamic Republic because the country has chosen this option due to the confidence that it has in its power and independence.
8. Negotiations between Iran and the United States will reflect the power of the Islamic Republic for supporting Muslims, the oppressed people of the world as well as freedom-seeking movements because many limitations with which Iran is currently faced in this regard emanate from the Islamic Republic’s conflict with the United States.
9. Negotiations between Iran and the United States will facilitate and speed up the process of Islamic and regional convergence. At present, one of the main existing obstacles to such a convergence in the region and the world of Islam, is differences among regional states on how to interact with the United States.
10. On the basis of the constructive resistance principle, negotiations with the United States will bolster soft war against the United States hegemony across the region and throughout the world.
Realists, who stand somewhere intermediate between the optimists and pessimists, argue that the real impact of negotiations between Iran and the United States should be assessed according to the way that negotiations and identity are defined. They mention the following reasons to support their argument:
1. Real negotiations do not necessarily translate into compromise and submission. On the contrary, real negotiations represent a process of interaction and bargaining through which the Islamic Republic will be able to achieve its goals without backing down on its basic principles and interests.
2. If held with both countries standing on equal footing, negotiations between Iran and the United States will prove the diplomatic prowess of the Islamic Republic, which is one of the important elements of a country’s national power. The final conclusion which can be drawn from these two realities is that negotiations with the United States will not necessarily undermine and weaken the discourse of the Islamic Revolution as well as the resistance and the model that the Islamic Republic of Iran has been representing so far. Undoubtedly, however, if basic principles are not observed during negotiations, those talks would possibly weaken all the aforesaid three identity components of Iran.
3. As said before, the identity of the Islamic Republic of Iran is made up of various elements. Although not all those elements are of the same weight in terms of their share in strengthening the Islamic Republic’s identity, no one of them should be singled out as the main representative of Iran's identity.
4. Therefore, when assessing the negative and positive effects of negotiations with the United States on the identity of the Islamic Republic of Iran, those elements which make up that identity should be taken into account in their entirety before a judgment is passed. Of course, an algebraic sum of the impact of these elements will not be sufficient criterion when trying to do the aforesaid assessment.
5. The beginning of the negotiations was a long stride, but the effect, both negative and positive, that it will have on the identity of the Islamic Republic of Iran will depend on the future outcomes of those talks. If the Islamic Republic of Iran emerges victorious from these talks, there should be no doubt that the Islamic and revolutionary identity of Iran would be further invigorated.
6. I have both said and written many times during the past years that the ongoing conflict between Iran and the United States is identity-based, at least, at certain levels. Therefore, when the two sides are making efforts to put an end to this conflict, they should pay serious attention to sensitivities and subtleties that usually surround issues related to identity.
7. Finally, negotiations and normalization of relations between Iran and the United States will not provide solutions to all the economic and developmental problems which are currently facing the Islamic Republic. Therefore, we must not count too much on negotiations because such an attitude is sure to result in identity-based damages and crises.
... Payvand News - 10/12/13 ... --