Nuclear Talks, An Opportunity for West to Accept Iran's Regional Power

Friday, November 21, 2014

Reza Jalali, Professor of International relations

1. All the strategies that are adopted within framework of a country’s foreign policy are the common denominator of the activities carried out by that country’s foreign policy apparatus, and before that, by the country’s major policymaking authorities. As a result, nobody can ever determine all the important and influential topics that are taken into account for the formulation of a strategy. Also, nobody can predict what lays in hiding in near and far future which may stall the policy that a political player has adopted on the basis of its short- and long-term interests.

The most important lesson for a successful foreign policy is that all policymakers and other influential figures should commit to the basic principle that their actions should be continuously changing in accordance with exigencies of time. This issue; that is, engaging in negotiations on the basis of the exigencies of time can be applied to all kinds of talks held to achieve bilateral or trilateral agreements and even agreements between countries and international organizations, and helps governments to manage those agreements.

2. It seems that the marathon of nuclear talks between Iran and the member states of the P5+1 group of countries is reaching its finishing line in the Austrian capital city of Vienna. Of course, this does not necessarily mean that the two sides will be able to achieve a final comprehensive nuclear deal through this round of negotiations. However, it should be admitted that tensions and differences between the two sides have reached their minimum during the past eight years.

Therefore, it seems that the remaining differences are more a result of the fact that major negotiating parties are not yet able to write down on paper what they have said during the course of the negotiations. This is mostly due to the fact that those involved in such agreements are worried about reactions that may await them in their own countries. This is why Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has noted that the text of the agreement is full of parentheses, that is, details that cannot be revealed right now. Also, Abbas Araqchi, a senior Iranian nuclear negotiator, has noted during this round of negotiations in Vienna that the two sides have been doing their best to remove ambiguities from the text as soon as possible and do away with those parentheses. All these facts show that there are concerns among negotiators about various ways in which a possible final nuclear agreement may be interpreted. It should be noted that despite all the sensitivities that surround this issue, we will still see criticism of the agreement. That criticism, in most part, will be a result of the fact that the agreement would not be able to meet the expectations of all radical political groups, and not a result of major structural defects that might anger main parties to the negotiations.

3. Considering the conditions of time and circumstances surrounding nuclear talks right now, one may claim that major players in the negotiations will be easily able to discard many of their differences and get down to more important issues. Since the first time that the case opened on Iran's nuclear energy program – when neoconservative figures were at the helm at the White House – up to the present time, any person with a knowledge of international affairs has reached the conclusion that the major problem that the United States has with Iran is not the possibility of military diversion in the Islamic Republic’s civilian nuclear energy program. However, the main issue is about the power and capabilities of a strong Iran which in the absence of international forces, will be the sole power capable of reining in centrifugal forces that are emerging in the region and restore stability to the sensitive Middle East region.

The present-day Iran is characterized by a modern and coherent social texture, self-sufficient economy (although not very strong), trained armed forces that are totally ready to defend the country and self-sufficient (at least in producing ordinary ammunition), a single state bureaucratic system as well as political stability. Apart from these issues, Iran has many rich mineral and other resources in addition to strategic depth. These are factors that can rarely be found together in any other political entity in the Middle East. The United States invaded a number of Middle Eastern countries in 2001 and 2003 in line with its master plan to build a new and greater Middle East and on the basis of a new definition of factors that should form social, economic, political, and security structures in this region. In doing so, Washington aimed to make up for the absence of desirable political systems in the Middle East through its military and political might. However, the direct result of its military assaults was creation of a power void in Iraq and opening the Pandora’s Box of radical jihadist forces in the region. Now everybody knows that the government in Iraq could have changed in a more peaceful way and a new political system could have been established there at a much lower cost and with a minimal degree of political turmoil compared to what we see right now.

The policy of containment of Iran, which was put on the agenda of the White House following those developments, is now firing back. It should be noted that the Middle East is different from other parts of the world because this is a region known as a major international economic hub. As a result, unrest in this part of the world will easily disturb other parts of the world as well and no political capital will remain unscathed when situation in the Middle East is turbulent.

4. The Western sides have been trying during past years and through adoption of various policies to give an international dimension to Iran's nuclear case. International sanctions imposed on the Islamic Republic through Washington’s pressures on various countries and international bodies, which target the national interests of the Islamic Republic of Iran, are just one aspect of the internationalization of Iran's nuclear case. Iran has now its own leverages and specific cases to raise in the negotiations. This is true in view of what has happened in the Middle East, including victories of the government troops in Syria in their fight against the opposition, the emergence of the ISIS caliphate in northern Iraq and the ongoing political crisis in Eastern Europe. If the West has targeted our country’s political potentials beyond its nuclear capacity, we can in return take steps proportionate to our strategic capabilities and potentials to meet the goals that will protect our country’s national interests.

It should be noted that Iran can take the best advantage of the painful conditions that are currently putting pressure on the West, especially European countries. To do this, Iran can bank on the West’s ongoing tensions with Russia, on the one side, with the challenge posed by the Jihadist forces to the West, on the other hand. In doing so, Iran would be able to push the West toward acceptance of its realistic demands. Considering the current conditions in the world, when relations between Moscow and Western capitals are characterized by tension and the Americans are weighing their interests against the West, the United States would be finally forced to give in to the new rules of the political game. As John Ikenberry has correctly wrote in After Victory: Institutions, Strategic Restraint, and the Rebuilding of Order after Major Wars, the United States, unlike other global powers before it and due to its own domestic conditions, has embarked on creating global institutions. By doing this, Washington has aimed to maintain its hegemony in the long run through these institutions, which are in fact, mechanisms for promoting cooperation and coordination among medium and big powers.

To achieve this goal, however, the hegemonic power would need to infuse its superior power into international institutions and in some cases even submit to arbitration and viewpoints of those institutions and backtrack on its positions. For example, the mechanism of P5+1 has been devised for this issue and it has been meant to bring about a big alliance of major powers in order to head off the fictional threat of Iran's nuclear energy program. Apart from the United States (which has longstanding hostility as well as numerous theoretical and political differences with Iran), all other member states of the P5+1 group have both strategic differences and strategic interests with regard to Iran. As a result, by adopting a principled policy, Iran will be able to convince this international institution to make a final decision that would be in Iran's benefit. This is possible in view of the conflicts that exist among global interests of the member states of the P5+1, which have already affected their viewpoints on Iran's nuclear energy program. The latest instance of those differences and conflicts is the ongoing tensions between Russia and the Western countries over the situation in Ukraine.

5. It would be apparently more realistic to admit that Iran will be able to achieve a lasting agreement (which is more important than a comprehensive one) with other negotiating parties only if it is able to forge a kind of balance among all political powers that are involved in the country’s nuclear case. Therefore, the country should make up its mind and make the best of the existing political conditions in the region and the world. The problem of the ISIS terrorist group is a problem which should be taken advantage of before a possible nuclear agreement is reached between Iran and the West. It is a fact that the nuclear case has been opened in order to contain Iran's increasing influence in the Middle East region. Therefore, in view of its own problems and the weakness of decision-makers in the United States, the West should be made to realize that it is only Iran that can effectively deal with the ISIS threat. Therefore, the West should be reminded that any effort to contain Iran's power by mounting pressure on the country through its nuclear case would actually backfire. As a result, the best solution to this problem is to accept that Iran is an effective containment power in the region, not a power that should be contained. The West better come to grips with this reality before it is too late.

Key words: Nuclear Talks, Iran's Regional Power, Foreign Policy Apparatus, P5+1 Group of Countries, Vienna, United States, Middle East Region, Radical Jihadist Forces, ISIS, Iraq, Jalali

Source: Iranians’ Nuclear Hope (INHNews.IR)
Translated By: Iran Review.Org