Washington’s Sinusoidal Behavior Undermines Nuclear Talks

Friday, September 5, 2014

US following more pressure – more benefit policy with Iran

Interview with Mohammad Farhad Koleini
Senior Expert on International Strategic Issues

The first round of negotiations between Iranian foreign minister and European Union’s foreign policy chief following the extension of the deadline for nuclear talks in July was held in Brussels, Belgium, on Monday, September 1, 2014. During the session, Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif met with EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton and discussed with her continuation of nuclear talks up to the November 24 deadline. However, during recent week and before Iran and the P5+1 kick off their new round of talks on the sidelines of the forthcoming annual session of the UN General Assembly, the United States imposed new sanctions against more persons and companies on the basis of their alleged connection with Iran's nuclear energy program. In the following interview, the overall course of Iran's nuclear talks and its impact on anti-Iran sanctions has been discussed with Mohammad Farhad Koleini, a senior expert on strategic issues. The full text of the interview follows.

Q: As the new round of nuclear talks between Iran and the P5+1 group of countries draws near, we have been witnessing intensification of the United States sanctions against Iran. In your opinion, what impact can Washington’s policy of negotiations combined with sanctions have on the overall course of nuclear talks between Iran and the P5+1 group?

A: I believe that it is for Ms. Catherine Ashton, as the main representative of the P5+1 group in the nuclear talks, to answer the question as to why the Americans have taken such a step at a time that negotiations between the two sides have been moving forward. As you know, the interim Geneva agreement was signed between the two sides with the clear goal of providing a suitable atmosphere for the further advance of nuclear talks between negotiating parties. However, when new sanctions were imposed none of the member states of the P5+1 group hailed the sanctions apart from the United States and all of them preferred to remain silent in the face of new sanctions. The only party that supported the sanctions was the same notorious lobby which has been resorting to any excuse to encourage any kind of sanctions against the Islamic Republic. Although American officials have given other reasons for the imposition of new sanctions, everybody knows that these sanctions are related to negotiations that are going on between the two sides. Some people in the United States have even clearly confirmed this issue in interviews with their domestic media and have noted that imposition of sanctions is part of the United States’ solution for Iran's nuclear issue. This approach, in fact, shows the wide gap between the understanding of negotiations and the final result of those negotiations. The American side is going on with the negotiations assuming that by pursuing the policy of more pressure, more benefit, it will be able to change the situation in its own favor.

Q: Some analysts believe that the US President Barack Obama is under pressure from anti-Iran lobbies that are very active in the United States and have attributed occasional imposition of such sanctions against Iran to those lobby groups. Do you agree with this viewpoint?

A: This new round of sanctions, which has been imposed by the US Treasury Department, has not been directly related to the activities of the aforesaid pressure groups or even certain individuals within the US Congress. Unfortunately, we have witnessed that these sanctions have been directly imposed by the US administration. This stands in contrast to the fact that whenever during past years various lobby groups or American figures at the Congress made efforts to ratchet up sanctions against Iran, the United States’ diplomatic apparatus tried to send representatives to those Congress sessions and took part in hearings organized by various congressional committees in order to manage the situation and prevent the opposite faction from intensifying sanctions against Iran. However, the behavior of the US diplomatic apparatus with regard to the latest round of anti-Iran sanctions has been quite surprising.

Even during the last round of bilateral negotiations that took place between representatives of Iran and the United States within framework of the nuclear talks, both sides described negotiations as constructive and expressed hope about their success. Such an optimistic reaction was even reflected in the official statements issued by the US State Department. At the same time, only a few days after those negotiations, we saw Mr. Barack Obama taking a personal position on this issue, noting that he believed the chances for nuclear talks with Iran to reach a final result were less than 50 percent. Therefore, I personally believe that at present the focus has somehow shifted away from Iran's nuclear case and given the forthcoming elections in November, our nuclear negotiators will see different behavior in upcoming nuclear talks. Also of special interest were personal positions taken by a personality like the former US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, about the future course of Iran's nuclear case. The entire world knows how unrealistic and extremist such positions are. It seems that certain sections of the US government or the Democrat politicians are trying to prevent their Republican rivals from snatching power and giving more concessions to the AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) lobby. This is true as they generally feel that in view of the forthcoming elections in November, they should be able to manage the existing conditions and maintain their majority at the Senate. As a result, they have decided to enter a double game with the AIPAC lobby so that, they would pose for photos with Democrats in the traditional manner. All told, it seems that part of the reasons that are behind imposition of sanctions are related to issues that have nothing to do with Iran's nuclear case directly. Sanctions, therefore, are just an excuse for the pursuit of the political pragmatism within the US administration, whose proponents try to manage the situation in accordance with their own interests. During the previous presidential poll, the Obama team had lost about 14 percent of the support that it had from the pro-Israeli lobby according to some estimates. Of course, the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu played a major role in stripping Obama of the pro-Israeli lobby’s support. I had elsewhere noted that the United States should avoid of its unpredictable and sinusoidal behavior with regard to Iran. This is more true especially under new circumstances because such behavior will increase distrust between the two negotiating sides and lead to lack of correct understanding of negotiations as well as Iran's peaceful nuclear program. Such behaviors are just fault finding and will further widen the gap that exists between Iran and the West, which unfortunately is not small.

Q: At the beginning of new round of nuclear talks between Iran and the P5+1 group of countries, we saw the emergence of political will between the two sides to reach an agreement. However, it seems that the political will has become less strong during the past few months or at least has been overshadowed by other issues. What do you think is the main reason behind this situation?

A: Under new circumstances, the Islamic Republic of Iran has been going on with the nuclear talks in line with three main axes, which include goodwill, seriousness, as well as a logical diplomatic approach, which aims to protect and defend the country’s national interests on the basis of red lines set for the nuclear negotiations. The country is thus trying to prove the peaceful nature of its nuclear energy program to the entire world through negotiations. During all this time, Iran has done its utmost to get some topics out of the agenda of the talks. However, certain parties have been trying to obstruct the course of negotiations through their negative behavior which aims to make achievement of a final understanding difficult. Some parties have been also taking steps that practically undermine the entire negotiations. Unfortunately, in most cases, such steps are taken by the American side as a result of which serious doubt has been cast on the value and importance of the goodwill that has been shown by Iran during the negotiations. On the other hand, such measures by the United States have even cast doubt on the seriousness of Washington in negotiations that are aimed at achieving the common goal of finding a solution to Iran's nuclear issue.

During this period, the officials of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have announced that in the light of the measures that have been taken by Iran in line with the interim Geneva agreement or the Joint Plan of Action, the country has shown goodwill in fulfilling its obligations. The Islamic Republic has even agreed to allow inspections of and supervision over its nuclear facilities beyond its obligations as per the Safeguards Agreement. Therefore, Iran has been keeping up measures needed to build trust with the other parties, but this issue has been ignored by the Americans. Some of them have even taken Iran's leniency during nuclear negotiations as a sign of the country’s need to those negotiations. At the same time, they have been trying to cast doubt on the nature of the nuclear energy program of Iran, but they should not be happy with their behavior. At any rate, in the same way that all problems are solved sooner or later, Iran's nuclear issue is sure to be resolved one way or another, and at the end of the day, the track records of all involved parties will be open to scrutiny.

Q: To what extent, do you think, cooperation between Iran and the United States over regional crises can help the progress of negotiations over Iran's nuclear issue? Is it possible for nuclear negotiations to turn into a case of such cooperation between the two countries?

A: The current conditions that we see in the region have nothing to do with the nuclear case of Iran. The course of developments, especially in the Middle East, has a totally different nature than Iran's nuclear case. During the past years when the unrest in Syria was a hot topic, I announced that the issue of Syria is totally different form the sweeping wave of the Arab Spring. Some analysts did not believe me at that time. It was then that I announced that what was going on in Syria was part of a new asymmetric war, which is of a totally security nature and is quite different from social and popular uprisings that we witnessed elsewhere in the Middle East. However, today, when we are faced with a phenomenon like the ISIS in the region, we can clearly see the double standards applied by the US foreign policy to developments in Syria and what is currently going on in Iraq.

As you may know, [the American whistleblower Edward] Snowden has recently claimed that this kind of security-based behavior is in line with the “honey trap” initiative used by Western intelligence agencies. At any rate, the issue that should be taken into account here is that the Islamic Republic of Iran is not responsible for the mistakes that the United States has made in the region. Iran, as a country which can serve as the anchor of stability and security in the region has always been, and will continue to be, the center of attention because the importance of Iran's position in the region cannot be denied. From this viewpoint, Iran's dialogue with the Western countries is not restricted to the United States. Iranian sides are usually in contact with the European sides in their diplomatic communications. Voices heard from Paris, London or Berlin, indicating their willingness to work with Iran are quite familiar for the Islamic Republic of Iran. The main point which should be mentioned here is that the topic of geopolitical issues is quite different from Iran's nuclear case. The nuclear program of the Islamic Republic is a totally peaceful program and has nothing to do with discussions about the necessity of striking a nuclear balance in the Middle East. Iran has time and again announced that it seeks peace in a Middle East, which should be free from nuclear weapons. At the same time, the main problem with which the region is grappling at the present time is the issue of extremism and reproduction of terrorism.

It would be totally wrong to consider the regional developments as a part of trust building process in the course of nuclear negotiations. Mr. [Zbignew] Brzezinski has clearly noted that the United States needs cooperation of important countries like Iran, but Iran argues that it has had different kind of experiences with regard to such cooperation. Under the reformist government of Iran and in the case of US invasion of Afghanistan, we witnessed a certain degree of cooperation between Iran and the United States. However, in return for Iran's cooperation, the US government rewarded Iran through increasing accusations against the Islamic Republic by introducing it along with a few other countries as part of the “Axis of Evil.” Later on, in the case of Iraq, the Iranian side accepted to engage in limited negotiations with the United States within framework of the interests of the Iraqi nation and government. But the United States once again underestimated the value of Iran's cooperation. The main problem, however, is that if there is a certain party which believes that it can lure Tehran and involve the country in a certain case again, it would be a great mistake. Iran has its own meticulous assessment of the level of various threats and is quite capable of differentiating between extremist groups in the region and Sunni Muslims. Iran will never embark on getting involved in dubious issues through an ambiguous policy.

Q: In your opinion, to what extent the double-standard policies of the United States of which you have already talked, have served to prevent trust being built between Tehran and Washington?

A: Well, apart from the issue of lack of trust between the two sides, the US policy is really not transparent and is moving toward an unpredictable destination. At present, there are serious questions about the US policy toward the Middle East even among the European countries and similar questions have been raised by the American officials as well. These questions are not simply about political issues, but are also seriously posited with regard to military matters. Of course, different literature may be used to pose these questions. For example, they may say that the US policy toward the Middle East region and its issues is very “cautious.” You just spend some time and look at the existing conditions in the Middle East. You would easily see that the intensity of terrorist activities in the region is not comparable with the past, even with five years ago. The quantity of explosions and catastrophic incidents has greatly increased. Therefore, we clearly see how wrong policies have practically increased the intensity of violent operations by various extremist groups in the region. The main question, however, is what party is actually responsible for the reproduction of terrorism in the region?

At present, we are witnessing how Mr. Barack Obama has reached the conclusion that limited strikes can be effective in curbing further advances of the ISIS and is trying to use the military power of the United States for limited restriction of the ISIS’ operations. On the other hand, we clearly see the absence of a suitable and proportionate strategy by the United States in the region. For example, some neighboring countries of Iraq are providing the ISIS with intelligence, logistical and moral support and the United States has largely remained silent in the face of their support. At the same time, according to a decision by the United Nations Security Council, those countries that provide such terrorist groups as the ISIS with financial and moral support should be prosecuted internationally. The interesting point is that concurrent with these developments, they intensify sanctions against Iran. This is not a win-win game and will interfere with approaches taken by various countries. These issues clearly indicate that we are not witnessing a transparent and uniform policy followed by the United States with regard to the issue of extremism. The situation is different with respect to Europe. If European countries make a basic revision of their policies and think about taking an independent, clear-cut, and uniform approach to regional security, it would be quite possible for the Islamic Republic of Iran to rethink the situation after reaching some clear conclusions.

Key Words: Iran, US, Sinusoidal Behavior, Nuclear Talks, Mohammad Javad Zarif, Catherine Ashton, UN General Assembly, P5+1, Group of Countries, Barack Obama, US Congress, AIPAC, Sanctions, Middle East, IAEA, ISIS, Koleini

Source: Etemaad Newspaper
Translated By: Iran Review.Org

More By Mohammad Farhad Koleini:

*An Iranian View to Extension of Iran-P5+1 Nuclear Talks:

*US Policies Become Increasingly More Unpredictable:

*Iran-EU Relations Should Not Be Overshadowed by Sanctions:

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