PERSIA AND THE USA: WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD?
"They give the slogan of change but in practice no change is seen...We haven't seen any change....You give the slogan of negotiations and pressure again...Our nation cannot be talked to like this".
Persian Supreme Leader Khamenei, 21 March 2009, in www.reuters.com
For nearly three decades relations between our nations have been strained. But at this holiday we are reminded of the common humanity that binds us together. Indeed, you will be celebrating your New Year in much the same way that we Americans mark our holidays -- by gathering with friends and family, exchanging gifts and stories, and looking to the future with a renewed sense of hope....
So in this season of new beginnings I would like to speak clearly to Iran's leaders. We have serious differences that have grown over time. My administration is now committed to diplomacy that addresses the full range of issues before us, and to pursuing constructive ties among the United States, Iran and the international community. This process will not be advanced by threats. We seek instead engagement that is honest and grounded in mutual respect.
You, too, have a choice. The United States wants the Islamic Republic of Iran to take its rightful place in the community of nations. You have that right -- but it comes with real responsibilities, and that place cannot be reached through terror or arms, but rather through peaceful actions that demonstrate the true greatness of the Iranian people and civilization. And the measure of that greatness is not the capacity to destroy, it is your demonstrated ability to build and create.
The President of the United States, 20th of March, 2009, in www.whitehouse.gov.
The new American President (aka: the ex-junior Senator from Illinois with the absurd name), made what would no doubt be view in the glorious days classical diplomacy, as a demarche vis-`a-vis Persia. In essence a proposal to pour parler, to open negotiations on topics of mutual interest. Of course being that we live in a demotic world, there by definition had to be all sorts of sentimental nonsense, and, other such tripe, in the offer. Fair enough. However once one goes beyond that, one sees that the new American administration would like to employ its alleged popularity abroad for purposes of endeavoring to get the Persians to agree to come to terms. Not mind you, some sort of diktat, but, something more akin to a modus vivendi. The only problem is that: a) the Persians are not yet convinced that they do in fact need to agree to terms; b) it is less than clear that the Americans have much to offer the Persians which would make it worthwhile for them to come to some sort of arrangement with the Americans. The issue is a rather simple one actually: the Persians want to both pursue their current nuclear programme, and, at the same time, be relieved of the sanctions regime which while not threatening the government substantively, has in fact caused some economic discomfort to it. And, to top it off, the Persians want to be seen, both by the Americans and their allies, in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, et cetera, as being 'the' leading regional power in the Near and Middle East.
The issue is also rather simple for the Americans as well: they want the Persians to forswear their nuclear programme, to forswear supporting such terrorist groupings as Hamas and Hezbollah as well as the regime in Damascus. And, to support rather than undermine the 'made in USA' regimes in Baghdad and Kabul. The problem, a problem of an almost Hegelian nature in fact, is that these two 'simple' issues, when added together do not unfortunately synthesize to create a simple solution, but, merely a very intractable quandary. Hence the dismissal of the American overture by the Head Persian Mullah Khamenei. And, one cannot of course entirely blame him. As yet there is no ostensible reason for Teheran to declare 'defeat', and, agree to the proposed American terms. Indeed, why should it? In some ways the regime of Mullahs can comfortably think that things are still going their way: Hezbollah looks set to win an electoral victory in the upcoming parliamentary elections in the Lebanon; Hamas, while badly mauled, is still in control of the Gaza Strip; Israel (much less its American ally) has still not dared to carry out its all but official threats to bomb Persia's nuclear reprocessing plants. Notwithstanding the fact that the programme may perhaps be a little as a year or two from fruition (on this issue see the latest report by ISIS: "Nuclear Breakout Scenarios: correcting the record", 18 March 2009, in www.nucleariran.org). And, finally of course the new American administration has all but pleaded with the Persians to join the new diplomatic 'contact group', dealing with Afghanistan (see: "Clinton to attend Afghan meeting, no word on Iran", in www.reuters.com). In short, so far there has not been enough of an employment of sticks by the Americans, nor carrots either to get the Persians to move from what is by no means a very comfortable position, but, which is still their position and, which they perhaps see no reason to move from it diplomatically speaking. As the American online journal Stratfor.com, puts out today:
"For Tehran, however, the suspension of sanctions is much too small a price to pay for major strategic concessions. First, the sanctions don’t work very well. Sanctions only work when most powers are prepared to comply with them. Neither the Russians nor the Chinese are prepared to systematically comply with sanctions, so there is little that Iran can afford that it can’t get. Iran’s problem is that it cannot afford much. Its economy is in shambles due more to internal problems than to sanctions. Therefore, in the Iranian point of view, the United States is asking for strategic concessions, yet offering very little in return".
George Friedman, in "Iran's View of Obama," 23 March 2009, in www.stratfor.com.
The upshot is, at least in my view of things is that notwithstanding the blandishments of the new American Administration, things will remain diplomatically speaking 'cold', rather than 'thawing', much less 'warm' between Teheran and Washington. If and only if, there is a disturbance of the present (negative) equilibrium between two powers, will things change. And, except for the danger (over-stressed still I believe) of Israeli air strikes on Persian nuclear processing and reactor sites, I do not know of any variable to disturb the present standoff. Look for things to continue for quite awhile yet.