Iran: Why the West can neither shake nor stir it
By Claude Salhani
Senior editor of the English service of Trend Agency
Has Iran outmaneuvered the West in the nuclear talks? Has Iran outsmarted most other countries in the game of geopolitics? If nothing else, Iran has managed to convince the United States and other members of the P5+1 to undo some of the sanctions that were imposed on the Islamic Republic, all while maintaining its position on its nuclear program. In other words Iran has succeeded in getting something for nothing.
"Look at it this way. No matter how the talks end, Iran will come out the real winner. Even if there is ultimately no agreement, Tehran will pocket the considerable concessions Washington has already made," says Michael Singh, the Lane-Swig Senior Fellow and managing director at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
Indeed, Iran seems to have the upper hand as it succeeds in convincing the world community that it never intended to develop nuclear technology for anything else but peaceful purposes. And if you believe this to be true, there is a bridge in Brooklyn you should really take a look at.
The European Union Foreign Policy Chief and Iran's Foreign Minister said at a joint press conference on Monday that "There are still significant gaps on some core issues which will require more time and effort."
What core issues, asks Jonathan Kaye in the National Post. There should in fact not be an issue at all. Iran has by now some 19,000 centrifuges and is working on producing new models that are more difficult for UN weapons inspectors to detect.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's Supreme Leader, wants Iran to expand its centrifuge stock by a factor of 10. And as points out Kaye, Iran's (moderate) president Hasan Rouhani, says that Iran won't part with its the centrifuges "under any circumstances."
Once again, if you want to predict the future, study the past. So let us take a look back at why Iran is so hell bent on acquiring nuclear technology?
Iran has some genuine fears that Western powers often tend to ignore. First, Iran is a Persian nation almost surround by Arab countries. And when you factor in the religion element, Iran is a Shiite nation almost surrounded by Sunni countries.
Historically, Arabs and Persians never really got along, and neither did Sunnis and Shiites get along. Iran seems to be getting along fine with groups such as Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Palestinian territories and with the Syrian government in Damascus.
The exception here is Hamas who are Sunni; all other groups are either Shiite or as in the case of Syrian President Bashar Assad, who is an Alawite, an offshoot of Shiism.
And second, Iran vowed during the devastating eight-year war it fought against Iraqi, that it would never allow itself to fall into that position of vulnerability ever again.
Iran is further helped along by the inability of the United States to formulate its foreign policy over a lengthy period of time, projecting instability, lack of continuity and the absence of coherence. Instead, what filters through the doublespeak emanating from the U.S. State Department is a hesitant Washington policy that putters along, stalls and putters some more.
Policy, seen from a Washington prism can only project in four-year increments -- from presidential election to presidential election. What eventually emerges is an image that portrays the U.S. as having no coherent blueprint even at crucial times. This is a problem which a number of U.S. diplomats acknowledge in private conversations, particularly when it comes to dealing in the complexities of the Middle East. One obvious answer is continuity. The life span of the average U.S. foreign policy is, at most, two U.S. presidential terms. That translates to eight years. But often, especially in a first term administration, by the time the candidate is selected and confirmed and gets his or her team into place, there are just over three years left before the monster machine that is the election campaign of a U.S. president gets underway, and for the remainder of the mandate, all eyes are turned toward domestic policy, mainly that of getting the president re-elected.
Iran, on the other hand, has hardly deviated one iota from the day the Islamic Revolution kicked off until today.
Says Michael Singh: "The challenge for U.S. negotiators, then, is not just to reach an agreement but also to change Iranians' minds about the consequences of not reaching an agreement."
Iran, will counter the argument that it has shown it was reasonable and that the sanctions should no longer be respected. The bottom line, point out a number of specialists on the topic is that Iran will begin the next round of talks having established a new nuclear baseline.
As Michael Singh points out, the U.S. must play hardball in nuclear talks with Iran." Granted, but how does one play when one of the players keeps moving the goal posts?