By Mahmoud Reza Golshanpazhooh, Executive Editor of Iran Review
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland
1. In her beautifully written book, The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam, Barbara W. Tuchman has explored the history of international relations from thousands of years ago up to the 1970s. In her extensive effort, she has presented several prominent examples of unwise and illogical measures taken by human beings as a result of which opportunities have been lost and peace has given way to war and destruction. The insanity and arrogance of the protectors of the ancient city of Troy, the foolhardiness of the Germans in attacking the British Navy during the World War I, the outlandish and irrational arguments given by the Japanese army commanders to justify their attack on the Pearl Harbor, and many other cases are among the prominent instances cited in this book, which make the reader feel great regret at the end of every chapter. Also, in his valuable book, When Things Go Wrong: Foreign Policy Decision Making under Adverse Feedback, Charles F. Hermann enumerates cases in which despite receiving negative feedback about their erroneous decisions in foreign policy, the politicians stubbornly insist on their viewpoints. At times, even some of them directly see the horrendous and destructive consequences of their decisions which have led to loss of good opportunities, but still stick to their viewpoints and decisions, make no revision to them and, therefore, inflict heavy losses on their countries. His book is full of good examples in relation to special situations that the American politicians face when making a decision and elaborates on how they react to such situations. When reading this book, one feels that politicians are sometimes possessed by evil spirits and lose any ability to see the future events or even pay attention to the threats that are posed to their countries at the present time.
2. During about two months that have passed since the signing of a nuclear deal [between Iran and the P5+1 group of world powers] in the Swiss city of Geneva, a weird atmosphere has been created and presented to the public opinion of the world, especially in Iran, by the executive and judicial officials of the United States, which is reminiscent of what you read in various chapters of the aforesaid books. Although the White House is apparently doing its utmost to prevent adoption of a new sanctions resolution by the Congress [against Iran], it should not be forgotten that the interpretation that the US Executive offered of the Geneva agreement immediately after its signing, was the main factor which led to more distrust between Iran and the United States. There is no doubt that nobody, whether in Iran or among the member states of the P5+1 group, expected nuclear negotiations and the conclusion of an agreement to be simple and easy. However, for any negotiations to bear fruit, both sides need to settle for a minimum degree of goodwill while taking care not to treat the opposite party with a condescending approach. At present, the true meaning of a number of concepts has been blurred in the negotiations. They include goodwill, mutual trust and commitment which are considered as the main pillars of any important negotiation. There is no doubt that in any negotiation both negotiating parties are aware that the negotiating table is no less than a real battlefield. Therefore, they should do all in their power in order to achieve their goals and protect their national interests, and should not be satisfied with apparent smiles and promises given by the opposite party. Despite the above facts, there is a subtle difference between negotiations and conflicts in that a minimum degree of commitment, trust and goodwill is needed for any negotiation to begin and continue. The question is do the American statesmen really imagine that if they continued with such dual behavior, they would be able to convince the public opinion that Iran has been the main reason behind a possible deadlock in nuclear negotiations? Here, the value of the active and purposive public diplomacy pursued by Iranian foreign policy team, especially the president and his Foreign Minister [Mohammad Javad Zarif], whose main goal is to shatter the false and unreal wall of Iranophobia, becomes more evident.
3. During his various speeches in the past few months, from his address to the United Nations General Assembly meeting to his recent remarks at the World Economic Forum meeting in the Swiss city of Davos, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has persistently asked for the resolution of the existing problems with the United States and Europe. He has also specified that any improvement in relations should be carried out in association with due respect for both sides’ sovereign rights and international standing. Now, the ball is in the court of the American statesmen and members of the Congress and it is for them to give an appropriate response to this offer. Otherwise, they are sure to once again lose the precious opportunity that has been presented to them. It seems the fact that the only opposite voice against any form of propinquity between Iran and the West or regional countries is Israel, attests to clear realities that do not need further elaboration. Let’s not forget that Israel is the same regime which has scored the highest number of resolutions in its condemnation from international human rights bodies and has also accounted for the highest number of times that the United States has used its veto right at the United Nations Security Council as a result of its irrational support for Israel.
4. Perhaps this viewpoint has proponents inside the United States that it was the pressure of sanctions which forced Iran to sit at the negotiating table. However, the proposition that comes forth from it, that is, “sanctions and intensification of sanctions will keep Iran at the negotiating table,” has certainly nothing to do with the reality. At present, although the Iranian people are suffering from the sanctions, few Iranian people can be found who really believe that Iran should still continue with its diplomatic efforts if it is faced with the awkward behavior of a number of radical US senators and lawmakers, and if new sanctions are adopted against the Islamic Republic. If opinion polls conducted by the American institutes and research centers in Iran are considered creditable, then attention should be paid to the findings of the latest of such polls, which was conducted by Zogby Research Services. The poll, whose results were released on December 6, 2013, revealed that 96 percent of Iranian respondents were relatively or completely in agreement with the proposition that safeguarding the country’s right to develop its nuclear energy program was worth the costs of economic sanctions and international isolation resulting from pursuit of that program. Interestingly enough, the findings of the same poll made it clear that those Iranians who believed Iran should possess nuclear weapons were more frequent among the supporters of Mr. Rouhani (76 percent) compared to those who had not voted for him (61 percent).
5. As Mr. Rouhani said in his latest remarks while addressing the World Economic Forum in the Swiss city of Davos, “the world has totally changed.” Therefore, it is no more possible to imagine that a country like the United States will be able through its carrot and stick approach to continue implementing its policies in a volatile region such as the Middle East, which is best known for its complexity and high capacity for tension. As a result, continued emphasis on such allegations that “we will bring Iran to its knees,” will only create an unpleasant feeling on the Iranian side and “provide us with the final reason which we needed in the country in order to create unwavering unity.” If a government with a moderate and pacifist approach as that of Dr. Rouhani’s administration would not be able to engage in mutually satisfactory negotiations with the United States, this would eliminate any chances for the improvement of relations between the two countries. In view of what has happened in the nuclear talks as well as all that is going on in the Geneva II conference on Syria, if American statesmen still feel that the situation in the Middle East before signing the nuclear agreement and conducting negotiations with Iran was more suitable for the management of and presence in the region, then they can continue with their policies on the basis of this understanding. However, one thing is certain. If the conservative politicians, who only think about promoting the international standing of Israel and claim that Iran's geopolitical and geostrategic capacities have been depleted, are allowed to have their way, the authors of the two books mentioned at the beginning of this article will have to add a new chapter to their books in the near future and in the new edition of those books. That chapter will be probably entitled, “United States Recurrent Insanity vis-a-vis Iran.”
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