West Becomes More Realistic: The Change of Position on Iran

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Abolqasem Qasemzadeh
Expert on Middle East Issues

Russia has taken over the rotational chair of the United Nations Security Council. In his address to the recent Security Council session, Russia’s representative to the United Nations, [Vitaly] Churkin, slammed West’s positions on Iran, describing unilateral sanctions imposed by the government of the United States and the European Union (EU) against Iran as violation of international law. He added that anti-Iran sanctions have so far backfired. The Russian representative to the UN also stated that unilateral sanctions imposed by certain countries against Iran were at odds with the international consensus on the Islamic Republic’s nuclear issue and, therefore, Moscow was opposed to them as continuation of such sanctions blocked efforts which are aimed at finding a diplomatic solution to Iran's nuclear issue. Churkin stated that as ambiguities surrounding Iran's nuclear energy program are resolved, the country should have the right to avail itself of the peaceful nuclear energy. During the same session of the UN Security Council, the representative of China [Li Baodong] also supported Iran's legitimate right to develop peaceful nuclear energy. He said China firmly believes that Iran, as a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), is entitled to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes by observing relevant international regulations. Baodong stated that blind sanctions cannot help to resolve Iran's nuclear issue in any way and that Beijing rejects the use of coercion in any form. The representative of China to the United Nations also proposed a change of course from the sanctions policy to more resilience and more attention to diplomatic efforts in order to pave the way for the resumption of constructive negotiations between the involved parties in the shortest time possible.

After the conclusion of the latest round of talks between Iran and the P5+1 group of world powers – including the United States, the UK, France, China, and Russia, plus Germany – in the Kazakh city of Almaty, a change of positions on Iran can be seen in most official and unofficial political circles of the West. The aforesaid address by the Russian representative to the UN Security Council, whose country is currently rotational chair of the Council, and the remarks made by China’s UN representative, clearly attest to this fact. During his speech at the latest meeting of the powerful Jewish lobby in the United States, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the US President Barack Obama showed signs of change in the United States’ positions on the Islamic Republic. Although Obama made reference to the possible use of military power against Iran in an apparent bid to curry favor with the Zionist lobby, he put renewed emphasis on the civilizational and historical position of Iran. He also stated that it is possible to solve the existing differences and discrepancies between Tehran and Washington through negotiations and diplomatic means while stressing the capacity of Iran to create stability and security in the Middle East. Concurrent with Obama’s remarks, the former British foreign secretary, Jack Straw, who is known as a prominent political figure in Europe, wrote a column in the widely circulating Daily Telegraph giving Iran the right to be suspicious toward the West. Jack Straw, who is known as a theoretician and powerful politician, elaborated on the historical relations between Iran and the UK in his article, noting that the course of action taken by the West on Iran was totally wrong. He added, “Normalization of relations with Iran is also an important prize for the international community. It has a considerable capacity to make conditions in its unstable neighbors – Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, the Occupied Territories, the Gulf States, and Afghanistan – more, or less difficult. An early priority for the UK should be the reopening of the embassies in Tehran and London. I have never been complacent about a nuclear-armed Iran, which is why I devoted so much time to negotiations with the country. My own best judgment is that Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah [Seyed Ali] Khamenei, who controls the nuclear dossier, probably wants to create the intellectual capacity for a nuclear weapons system, but will stop short of making that system a reality.” The seasoned former British foreign secretary called on the West to modify its stance against Iran and start to lift unilateral sanctions in order to pave the way for the resolution of differences through negotiations and dynamic diplomacy. Although the offer proposed by the seasoned British politicians for the modification of the West’s approach to Iran is good, it is not enough. To prove their goodwill, the Western states should take more practical steps.

Most remarks, both oral and in writing, made by renowned politicians in Europe and the United States have pointed to the opening of a new window whose main function is to modify West’s positions on Iran. Why? There have been many explanations on why the West has modified its positions on Iran a few of which are briefly explained below.

1. Some analysts believe that the modification of the West’s positions on Iran is a result of Obama’s new assessment of the Middle East and the regional standings of Iran and Israel. Israel is currently entangled in domestic as well as foreign crises under the leadership of the incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Within Israel, the economic and social crisis has become so urgent that the opposition representatives of the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, believe that all the problems facing the country emanate from the presence of Netanyahu at the top of the power pyramid. They maintain that Netanyahu’s policies have caused Israel to become progressively isolated within the international community while, inside Israel, his policies have gradually downgraded the situation of the middle class who are currently living under the poverty line. Netanyahu’s violent policy has been also met with staunch opposition from the US President Obama because the Israeli government has been persistently trying to drag the Obama administration into the vortex of a grave military crisis whose final result is impossible to determine despite the fact that the US administration is doing its best to stay away from such crisis.

2. From the viewpoint of the Obama administration, however, the present Iranian government is characterized by three major features:

- Enjoys relative internal stability and established command;

- Enjoys the biggest military power in the Middle East region;

- Is popular among the people of the Islamic countries; enjoys full support of the Muslims; and its political stances are determining across the Middle East.

3. When evaluating the US strategy in the Middle East, many factors can be enumerated as underlying Washington’s strategic approach to the regional countries, the most important of which include:

A. to maintain stability of energy (especially oil) export cycle;

B. to guarantee security of Israel and provide adequate support to US allies in the region; and

C. to fight terrorism and protect the United States’ military and intelligence bases in the Middle East region.

To keep up that strategy in the Middle East, the Obama administration has carried out financial and political assessments. The modification of positions and the switch from a military to a political approach is the direct outcome of such assessments. The heavy burden of military costs is weighing down on the Obama administration and has necessitated suitable adjustments in the US budget. In addition to heavy human casualties, military approaches call for heavy budget to be allocated by the American politicians. At the same time, it has been proven that militarism is no way to tackle crises. Even the main allies of the United States in Europe are no longer able to continue investment in the ongoing military operations.

4. The crisis in the Middle East has caused this region to be without “hegemony.” The absence of hegemony in this region continuously exacerbates crises and causes them to develop into new and more intricate dimensions. To lay out a new policy to create suitable hegemony through good understanding of the modern Middle East would be only possible through a political approach. The change in policy, model and work agenda is the best way to make it possible to take such an approach. A change in policy will also prevent continuation of certain crises which have already radicalized some governments and political institutions in the Middle East, and more importantly certain parts of the Muslim community. By insisting on the continuation of the crises, the West will become more isolated in the Middle East and will cause a flare-up of hatred and animosity of the Muslim societies against the West (the US and Europe). The modification of the West’s policy will prevent further continuation of crises and isolation of the West in the region.

5. While the United States and Europe are paying the price of stoking crises in the Middle East, China and Russia are taking good advantage of the political confrontation with the West in the region. The European countries have already totally given up the militaristic policies of [the former US President George W.] Bush’s era. As for the United States, after Democrats gained the power, they have discontinued pursuit of the past policies whose main axis was the use of military force as such a policy was no more acceptable to the American society.

6. Although sanctions as well as threats against Iran have caused problems for the country, their main goal, which was to create a rift between the head and the body (the government and the people), has not been achieved. The time is now ripe for a basic revision in the sanctions and threat policy as the two sides have been offered with a good opportunity to settle their disputes through negotiations and replace interaction for hostility through modification of their positions.

It would need more time to elaborate on every one of these issues, but what is clear right now is the signals from the West (the United States and Europe) which indicate that they are actually changing their policy toward Iran. This may be a forerunner to more changes in the United States strategy and plan in the Middle East, especially with regard to Iran.

Key Words: Change of Position, Iran, P5+1, West, Israel, Middle East, Sanctions, Nuclear, Qasemzadeh

Source: Ettelaat Newspaper
Translated By: Iran Review.Org

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