Sunday, February 22, 2009

More On US-Iran Relations

On Thursday, I posted On US-Iran Relations, arguing that normalizing relations with the US and the West would require Ayatollah Khamenei’s personal intervention to force different factions within the principlists (hardliners) to accept limits on the country’s nuclear program and to end relations with extremist organizations in the region.

Yesterday, British Ambassador to the United Nations, John Sawers, said in a BBC documentary that in 2005 the Iranians were ready to strike a deal whereby they stop their support of the violent extremists and Iraqi insurgents engaged in killing the US and British forces in Iraq, if the West allowed Iran to carry on with its nuclear program.

“We stop killing you in Iraq, stop undermining political process there, you allow us to carry on with our nuclear program without let or hindrance,” Ambassador Sawers said in the documentary, “Iran and the West: Nuclear Confrontation” [BBC, Saturday 21 February].

We are not sure of the details and the extent of Iran’s offer; we only know Ambassador Sawers’ account of the event. However, it is quite feasible to assume that the Iranian government is, and has been, looking to find ways to strike a deal with the West.

If the West accepts limited (less the 4%) uranium enrichment program and lift economic sanctions against Iran, Ayatollah Khamenei will be in a position to force the principlists to accept normalizing relations with the Obama administration and the West and disengage from extremist organizations in the region.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the post, I was wondering how you analyze the normalizing procedures taking place in case the reformists i.e. Mohammad Khatami wins the 2009 election in Iran, and also the impacts of initiating negotiations with Obama's administration on the forthcoming election.
The processes of the normalization of relations will not happen over night for sure, and it is said that the hardliners want and have the power to limit the initiation of negotiating with the US to their own front to use it as a propaganda for the election. I am interested in knowing how you speculate the impact of the Iran-US negotiations on the 2009 election in Iran. Do you think Obama's government should postpone any dialog with Islamic Republic until the reformists come to power in Iran? Do you think, in case they do so, there is still chance for Iran-US normalizing relations?

Nader Uskowi said...

Dear Foad,

Thanks for your post. A reformist government will create more favorable conditions for normalizing relations with the West. But even under a future Khatami presidency, Khamanei’s willingness to normalize relations with the US and his leadership in bringing in all principlist factions behind a normalization plan will be key to its success. Without Khamenei, there’ll be no normalization.

Obama administration will of course have an easier time to start dialogue with a reformist government in Tehran. And the people of Iran know this and might want to elect Khatami to help bring Iran out of its current international isolation. But again, on a key foreign policy issue such as normalization of relations with the US, Khamenei and principlists must be on board. So even if the hardliners win the presidency on 12 June, it is advisable for Obama administration to find ways for a meaningful dialogue with Tehran, in order to lessen the tensions, and strike an agreement on a host of issues, topped by limiting uranium enrichment to 4% under the UN supervision.

Foad Torshizi said...

Thank you so much for the profound response. I also believe that Khamanei's approval is necessary, as you mentioned. I hope that the common belief that normalization will be easier if a reformist president gets into the office, which seems to be reasonable, will be taken into account by the majority of voters in Iran's 2009 election. Hope for better days to come, and thanks once more for your response.

Anonymous said...

I do know that if Iran tries to deal with amerika before Iran is stronger and amerika is much weaker, a lot more Iranians will suffer than otherwise would.

I have no idea whether Iran has nuclear weaponry is trying to build it or not, but I do know that the acquisition of nuclear arms is the only thing likely to save them in the short run. It annoys me and deeply saddens me to say that but the reality of the world we live in is only those nations which have nuclear weapons are accorded the rights of a sovereign nation.

Nations don't have feelings, they have interests. You and I can be as pissed about that as we want to be but that is the fact of the matter and any attempt by Iran to give aid to amerika won't be received with gratitude, it will be played in an effort to destabilise the government that tried to be friendly.

Nader Uskowi said...

Dear Anonymous,

Nuclear weapons in themselves do not guarantee a stable and powerful government, Pakistan is prime example.

Ayatollah Khamenei has on number of occasions declared that building the bomb is not in the interest of the country. Uranium enrichment, he says, is for peaceful/energy generation purposes.

Then, Iran’s national interests, one assumes, is to immediately end its current isolation and the economic sanctions against the country. The best way out is for the West to accept Iran’s rights to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes (under 4% enrichment) and for Iran to indeed accept international monitors to show its intentions (Khamenei has said the intentions are not building bomb).

Obama’s election presents the best cover for Khamenei to force principlists to accept such compromise. It is in Iran’s national interest.

Anonymous said...

One must consider the old saying that "Only Nixon could go to China." Hardliners are free to make concessions that reformers cannot, simply because they are are never suspected of "weakness." This holds true for both the US and Iran. What is must frustrating about Bush and Ahmadinejad is that neither of them had the insight to realize that only hardliners can negotiate freely.

Thus Obama and Khatami can dial down the rhetoric and keep matters from spiraling out of hand, but a genuine "grand bargain" will always be under attack by their domestic opposition. The last time moderates were in power in the US and Iran little was accomplished. We need more than an agreement not to snipe at each other. The liberals on both sides are too scared to make real concessions and the hardliners are too dumb.

Mina said...

Thanks for the information. Trita Parsi wrote an article in this regard in He believes that Iran won't respond to Obama's call unless she receives more concessions. However, we all know talking to the government of Iran at this stage of the game is nothing but calling for more grievances in the future. The fact that this government does not represent Iranian people, (neither the parliament, nor the president or Supreme Leader are really elected by people) and this is known at least by the Iranian people, places Obama's administration in an awkward position. The recent demonstrations by the students and the crackdowns by the basijis and Ansars in the various universities does not make things much easier either. Given all, I hope Obama waits for the presidential election takes place so at least hopefully a semi legitimate government comes to power. I hope someone could remember the high price we all paid for the Iran-US relation during the Shah's time. Talking to a government which is not elected by the people won't have a better consequence disregarding its name and its title.
As for Iran's nuclear weaponry, I personally envy all who trust what Khamenei says. As we all know there is something called lying and its usage is somehow widespread and these ayatollahs seem to have a carte blanche to use it and they do. I heard from a very credible nuclear physicist quite familiar with Iran's program who thought undoubtedly Iran wants to have a nuclear bomb. As a matter of fact, the IAEA has not ruled out the possibility of it either. But gee, God help us all if they get it.