US House Measure Needs Proportionate Answer from Iran

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Hassan Beheshtipour

The final result of Iran's 11th presidential election was made public on June 14 and Dr. Hassan Rouhani was elected as the country’s new president. Since then the United States, both on the level of the White House and in the Congress, has been showing different reactions and sending various signals in response to the election of a government in Iran whose main campaign motto was increased interaction with the rest of the world. The most recent of such reactions was a letter written by 131 members of the US House of Representatives addressed to the US President Barack Obama. The American lawmakers had asked the president to make the most of the opportunity offered by the election of Mr. Rouhani in order to find a diplomatic solution to problems with Iran. As reported by the daily Washington Post, the US Congress has also taken a rare and unprecedented measure by deferring the submission of a bill, which seeks to escalate sanctions against Iran, to the White House for the final signing. Such bills are usually sent to the White House in summertime, but on this instance, the Congress has decided to postpone the measure for about three months until October. Can these developments be considered as signs of a new approach to Iran by the White House, or we cannot have hope in the adoption of a new approach by Washington?

When it comes to interaction with the Islamic Republic, the government of the United States has been suffering from a plurality of policies. In other words, the senior American officials are not unanimous about the best way to deal with Iran. The recent letter by the US lawmakers about Iran had been first signed by 118 members of the House, which was later increased to 131, with 18 signatories coming from the Republican faction. At present, the Republicans have the majority at the US House of Representatives. Therefore, the fact that the letter has been signed by both the Democrats and Republicans shows that part of the US government is not under the influence of the Israelis and the pro-Israeli lobby in the Congress, and believes that the national interests of the United States can be met best by resolving the existing problems between Tehran and Washington through negotiations.

In the meantime, the election of Mr. Rouhani and an administration of moderation in Iran has caused those people in the United States who support more interaction with Iran to gain new ground. In this way, both moderate figures in the two countries are trying to get their viewpoints close.

Of course, there are still many people who believe that what has been done by the White House and the Congress so far is just on the paper and merely aims to throw the ball in Iran's court. They argue that such measures only seek to promote and justify the position and the logic of Washington with regard to the nuclear negotiations with Iran in the world’s public opinion. They also maintain that if the United States is really willing to prove its goodwill, it should revoke part of the unilateral sanctions against Iran in order to show in practice that it is really willing to find a solution to reach an agreement with Iran.

In other words, one may dare say that deferring the submission of new sanctions bill against Iran can be considered a positive step on the US side, but it is definitely not adequate. If the United States is really willing to cut the Gordian knot of its problems with Iran, it should first give up its hostile approach to the Islamic Republic. The first step in this direction is to remove all, or at least part, of the unilateral sanctions that the United States has already imposed against Iran.

A backward glance at the track records of the US Congress with regard to Iran will prove that the members of the US House of Representatives and the Senate have been consistently pursuing a consensual anti-Iranian approach on all matters of difference. It should be, however, noted that under the current conditions when that consensus has been practically shattered by a letter which has been signed by 131 members of the House, from both the Democrat and Republican camps – which account for about one-fourth of the House members – they should be met with a suitable and commensurate answer from Iran.

Some people like to always have the upper hand and have been emphasizing that the measure on the US part is not significant enough to be met with a positive answer from Tehran. However, from a realistic standpoint, this positive step deserves to receive an appropriate answer from the deputies of the Iranian parliament (Majlis). We should neither consider it so big that as if something extraordinary has been done by the United States, nor downplay it so much as to totally pass over it without due attention.

If we keep thinking that the Americans take such measures simply to deceive the public opinion of their own people or the entire world, we will never get anywhere in this regard.

It seems that based on the Quranic idea that “a good deed can be only answered by another good deed,” Iran should deal with such measures realistically and give a proper answer to them even if they are taken for tactical purposes.

It seems that the existing conditions are moving in a direction that will finally provide a suitable atmosphere for a serious step to be taken with regard to the most important problem in Iran's relations with the West. Making the most of this situation would be only possible when the two sides get themselves down to taking balanced, commensurate, and groundbreaking steps.

The idea that only one side should take actions and the other side should simply stand by and watch is basically erroneous. In any form of negotiation and dialogue, the two sides will endeavor to take new initiatives and look for mutually satisfactory solutions only when both of them have serious determination to solve the problems. It is not possible for either side to have all its interests and aspirations met in the best way possible.

In a cunning diplomacy, each side will try to defend its specific red lines while, at the same time, obtaining the highest possible degree of balanced concessions within a win-win framework.

When studying diplomacy, diplomats are taught how to defend the national interests of their country and maximize the degree of their realization by simultaneously recognizing the interests of the opposite side. They have learned that they cannot opt for a one-way street without due respect for the other side’s interests and expect the opposite side to accept their viewpoints with no objection.

The Western states, on the other hand, have come to realize that the time for taking unilateral and dictated measures is long past and they cannot expect other countries to give in to all their one-sided and illegal demands.

Therefore, one may dare say that the time is ripe for cooperation and reciprocal trust. As a first step, it is possible to get rid of the failed policy of “pressure combined with negotiation” and replace it with the policy of “cooperation and negotiation.”

*A researcher, documentary producer, and expert on nuclear issues, Hassan Beheshtipour was born on June 22, 1961 in Tehran. He received his BA in Trade Economics from Tehran University. His research topics span from US and Russian foreign policy to the Ukrainian Orange Revolution.

Key Words: US House of Representatives, Iran, Hassan Rouhani, Congress, New Sanctions, Win-Win Framework, Negotiation, Beheshtipour

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