By Cyrus Kangarlu
Presidents Obama and Rohani on cover of Iranian magazine Mosalas
Achievements of Obama’ presidency in the last seven years are undeniable to friends and critiques of his administration. Just a short list of his numerous achievements are as follows; (1) Passed Health Care Reform, (2) Passed the Stimulus Plan, (3) Ended War in Iraq and Afghanistan, (4) Killed Bin Laden, (5) Saved US auto industry, (6) Implemented Wall Street Reform, (7) Saved US Banks, (8) Improved US reputation with Allies (9) took Federal Student loan program out of the hand of big Banks, (10) Negotiated Nuclear deal with Iran, (12) Added tow liberal seats in US Supreme court (13) gave FDA power to regulate Tobacco, (14) Support of renewable energy, ......
On this list, which is envy of any modern US president, the nuclear agreement with Iran requires special attention. Iran as the perennial topic of US national election is one more time ringing in the ears of campaign goers. While republican’s position on Iran borders with insanity even Hillary and Bernie in their debates showed that Iran is one of the bones of contention for their foreign policy. Already, American’s are enjoying the fallouts of the nuclear agreement on the gas pumps where they are paying less for a gallon of gasoline than for drinking water. On top of that, the fact that continued economic benefits of the nuclear agreement for Iran hinges on the endorsement of the US government of their behavior in their neighborhood, Iran has a strong incentive to refrain from acts that grossly undermine US policy in the region.
This is the miracle of Obama’s exacting of the nuclear concession from Iran, and the role it will force Iran to play in that tumultuous part of the world. Building on this success, US must continue on the path to normalization of relations between with Iran. Obama realized that, faced with increasing isolation, Iran was equally likely to walk down one of the three possible paths of negotiation, weaponization, or diversion. The choice of the first option by Iran is the crown jewel of Obama’s vision and policy analytic power of his team led by John Kerry. Now, it is time to pick the fruit of that success. Realizing that no other foreign policy issue by the present or the next administration will serve the economic and security interest of US, requires pursuit of even a bolder move.
Given the make-up of the viable candidates for presidential election and a high probability of Hillary winning the race, in all likelihood, either achievements of Obama foreign policy in the middle east will be frozen, at best, or reversed all together. As Obama viewed a trip to Cuba as the icing on the cake of his innovative foreign policy of openness and inducement of liberalization in Cuba by bringing it back to the family of nations, his trip to Tehran will be the pinnacle of his presidency, an achievement comparable to Nixon’s trip to China.
Considering the elimination of the threat of communism by splitting the Communism camp in 1979 by Nixon, the opportunity now exists for the US to attract Iran away from radical Islamic camp and welcome it to the family of nations. Obama can even show the clergies in Iran that such action by Iran will even serve the best interest of their religion by making it distinct from the criminal Jihadi gangs who have defamed all historic achievement of Islam. Rewards for such trip are rather high and risks are pretty low. So, it is up to Iranians to create a national discourse hospitable to receiving the US president in Iran. This can, overnight, turn around the economic woes that have shackled Iran today. Without such bold move, the fallouts of nuclear deal will be too small to provide a jolt to Iran’s economy that is heading for the cliff.
Dividends for the US economy of such opening to Iran are even greater. Ironically, the two countries can scratch each other’s back in a way that friends can never do.
Is there political insight and vision on both sides to go beyond the mere rhetoric and make this happen? Informed citizens of US and Iran can start a campaign to ensure that such trip will take place. Anyone who discourages or hinders such plan will live to regret his action as there are not too many good options left for the US to counter the poisonous winds of radical Islam in a regions where all traditional US allies are trembling as the noose is tightening around their necks. Prominent among those allies is the Saudi royal family who have demonstrated their smell of a violent overthrow by their radical nemesis by pursuing some unprecedented military policies in Bahrain, Yemen, and Syria that runs the risk of a military defeat, economic meltdown and massive popular discontent. Such turn of events will not serve the US interest in the region.
Establishment of diplomatic relationship with Iran will also send a strong signal to the Iranian government that US government has come to realization of the benefits of cooperation with the only stable government in the region who has the resource and mandate to help stabilize Iraq and Syria. At the same time, Saudi royal family will be given the assurance that US-Iran rapprochement will not be at the expense of Saudi security. A visit by the US president to Iran before 20 Jan 2017 is a no-risk action with far too many potential benefits to the US and allies to allow to become subject to political bickering of election season or preoccupation with petty politic of rise of a demagogue to partisan prominence. This is the only way we can ensure that Trump will remain a bad memory to US political history rather than a new destructive trend.
About the author: Cyrus Kangarlu is the president of “Institute of Democracy for Educational Advancement, IDEA” Foundation in Los Angeles, CA.
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