JCPOA and Iran Containment Doctrine

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Nozar Shafiei
Member of the Iranian Parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Committee

During the past two decades, the United States’ policy toward Iran has been based on “containment doctrine.” According to the containment doctrine, the United States has done its best to prevent development of Iran's regional and international presence and influence through close and expanded cooperation with its regional allies. Of course, certain warmongering measures taken by the United States under the former neoconservative US administration, including the occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq, gave considerable geopolitical latitude to Iran's regional strategy and led to practical failure of the containment doctrine.

Therefore, it seems that the policy of leveling charges against Iran with regard to its nuclear program since 2003 has been followed with the goal of toning down the consequences of the United States’ direct military presence in the region. This means that in order to be able to continue its containment doctrine against Iran, American leaders had to mount international pressures on Iran in new and more diverse fields.

What said above means that the new process of nuclear diplomacy followed by Iran and the P5+1 group of countries has been shaped on the basis of a specific set of goals and strategic options on both sides. In particular, it should be admitted that even within the framework of US President Barack Obama’s foreign policy doctrine, Americans still consider the nuclear talks and the recent nuclear agreement [known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)] as part of a general model for containment of Iran's power in the region.

Recent remarks by Nicholas Burns, former spokesman of US Department of State, are noteworthy in this regard. Burns believes that new nuclear talks with Iran should be part of the United States’ polity to contain the Islamic Republic. He has emphasized that the nuclear agreement is just a small agreement compared to all issues that exist between Tehran and Washington, arguing that the nuclear agreement should be part of a more general smart policy to contain Iran, because only in this case, the nuclear agreement with Iran could meet the goals that the United States pursues with regard to its national interests. The former US official then said the United States has had problems with Iran since 35 years ago and from the time that US diplomats were taken as hostage in Iran in 1979. The Obama administration, Burns added, finally reached the conclusion that negotiations with Iran should be limited to the nuclear issue, which Burns believes has been the right decision. The United States, as Burns says, needed to consider a framework for the talks by focusing on a certain issue because no framework could be created to encompass all issues between Iran and the United States at the same time.

Of course, his views have been frequently echoed by senior US officials in the past days and weeks, while many positions and new approaches that they have taken on regional issues attest to this fact as well. This is why in his meeting with the members of the Assembly of Experts on September 3, 2015, the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, said, “America has [certain] policies [and has certain] views in this region. One of those views is that resistance forces of this region must be totally obliterated, [and] annihilated. One of their views is that the government of America must have full domination over the countries of Iraq and Syria and the rest of them…. Among the things they say and [the one that] makes me sensitive, is that they say JCPOA has provided America with opportunities - both inside Iran and outside Iran and in the region; this is what Americans say and is among their allegations. What I say to our friends within the [Iranian] administration and in various [other] positions is that you must not absolutely give America [any] chance for this opportunism inside [the country]. [And] outside [Iran] you must try to deprive America of such opportunities…. I have said this and announced that except for the nuclear issue, we would not negotiate with Americans with regard to any [other] issue; I have said [this] both to our foreign policy officials, and to other officials that we don’t enter [into any talks with America on other issues]. The reason is that their orientation [in the region] is quite the opposite of our orientation, [and] we are 180 degrees different [from each other].

In view of the above facts, the question is what has been the effect of the recent nuclear agreements, and in particular the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action – also known as JCPOA which was clinched by Iran and the P5+1 group in July 2015 – on the US containment doctrine with regard to Iran? In fact, this question is based on the hypothesis that through the “policy of limited interaction and negotiations” with the United States, Iran aims to shatter the containment doctrine against itself. Therefore, finding the best way to realize this goal has turned into the most important concern of all related experts and think tanks.

To sum it up, attention to the following two major considerations is requisite for the realization of this strategic goal:

1. Iran should emphasis on the policy of maintaining and developing its presence and influence in the region, so that the Islamic Republic will continue to remain the axis of strategic equilibrium and balance. The important point in this regard is that Arab regional allies of the United States are seriously concerned about this issue and some of them have directed their criticism of Obama with regard to the nuclear deal with Iran toward this issue. However, it seems that while paying considerable attention to dispelling such concerns, the United States is also ready to own up to Iran's regional power. For example, in an exclusive interview with the CNN news channel, Obama admitted that “…the reason that Iran has been effective [in the region] has less to do with the amount of money they've spent. It has more to do with the fact that although [Persian] Gulf countries, for example, spend eight times more, at least combined, on defense than Iran's entire defense budget, they haven't deployed it in ways that have been as strategically effective.

2. Iran must have necessary sensitivities about using nuclear diplomacy as a model for the resolution of other regional problems and issues in such a way that the strategy of resistance and Iran's independent regional policies would not be harmed. In this regard, special attention should be paid to the point that the nuclear agreement between Iran and the P5+1 group has various effects and functions on a regional level and will either accelerate or decelerate many regional orientations in various political, security and military spheres. Without a doubt, Iran's diplomatic and foreign policy apparatus must try to identify overt and covert dimensions of the aforesaid orientations, in order to put on its agenda new political plans and initiatives in order to create more opportunities in the post-JCPOA period.

Key Words: The United States, Policy, Iran, Containment Doctrine, P5+1, Nuclear Diplomacy, Barack Obama, Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, Nicholas Burns,

Source: Iranian Diplomacy (IRD)
Translated By: Iran Review.Org

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*Photo Credit: Barbara Kelley, Hoover Institution

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