Tuesday, September 27, 2022

A dramatic turnaround beyond a nuclear deal (PART ONE)

An overseas-based Iranian university professor has said in an opinion piece that the tentative nuclear agreement comes with consequences which should be thoroughly thought through by parties involved.

“Nothing has happened yet” is apparently the only similarity between the official stance of high-ranking Iranian and US leaders following the release of a joint statement by Iran and P5+1 in Lausanne [in early April]. The shared stance of the two sides is a requirement of diplomatic shrewdness to keep the doors to bargaining open in the months ahead and avoid triggering backlash at home.

Donya-e Eqtesad daily on April 15 published an opinion piece by Dr. Mohammad-Mahdi Mojahedi, a professor of Comparative Political Philosophy in Germany, about the tentative nuclear agreement between Iran and P5+1 and its consequences. The following is Part One of the translation of the piece:

To understand the political consequences of the nuclear talks, one needs to dig deeper and go beyond diplomatic announcements by the parties to the talks. To apprehend these consequences, a line should be drawn between “the results of the talks” and “the consequences of the talks”.

At best, the talks will culminate in an agreement which can guarantee Iran’s nuclear rights, exorcize the specter of sanctions and assure [the other side] that Iran’s nuclear program does not have military dimensions. Such an agreement can also deny the other party the leverage by which the West exerts security pressures on Iran.

The consequences of the nuclear talks are a question which should not be mistaken for a possible agreement at the end of the talks; in other words, the statement issued in the Swiss city [of Lausanne] or a likely agreement to be inked in the future are by no means the main historic achievement of the talks.

Not only are the consequences of the nuclear talks different from the nuclear agreement, but – in some cases – the correlation between them is similar to the correlation between what Iran achieves and what it has to give up, or like the correlation between the price which is paid in the framework of a possible nuclear agreement and what will be achieved later as a result of the agreement.

The results of the talks – namely the Lausanne statement and a possible agreement [down the road] – should be viewed as the diplomatic façade and the secondary, outward principles of a “dramatic turn”. Such a turn is part of calculated consequences of a modern policy which has basically set the stage for the start and continuation of the unprecedented talks.

This twist has been overlooked by most critics of the Lausanne statement in Iran. The reason why the Zionists, Persian Gulf sheikhdoms and certain Republicans and Democrats – who have links with Arab and Israeli lobbies – are concerned is that they appreciate “the consequences of a dramatic political turn” which has helped the unique talks proceed at a high level and has pushed the talks forward despite all obstacles standing in the way.

The wickedness of Persian Gulf sheikhdoms during a previous rounds of nuclear talks in Geneva and recently in Lausanne – which manifested itself in the form of making impulsive excuses to derail the talks, forming a hasty coalition to launch attacks on Yemen, and injecting tension to the Hajj diplomacy which resulted in the use of harsh rhetoric by the preachers and media close to the House of Saud against Iran and Shiism – is part of reactions they desperately and inevitably show to this dramatic political turn.

There are other clear signs of such a dramatic turn, among them: a panicked and hasty response by Netanyahu and the Zionist lobby in the US, and the crack which has clearly divided the US and Israel over Iran and regional questions.

The fact is that for decades – prior to the collapse of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics – the foreign policy of big powers in the Middle East revolved around two axes: energy and security. These two policies were meaningful against the backdrop of the Cold War’s geopolitical and geostrategic balance, giving shape to developments in the Middle East in a special way.

In recent decades, however, these two axes have undergone fundamental change. On the one hand, the Islamic Revolution took place in Iran, the Iraq-Iran war dragged on, the Soviet Union disintegrated and popular uprisings swept through the Arab world.

On the other hand, the world’s energy policies changed, new technologies and energy sources emerged and Russia’s Putin – who pursues acquisitive, aggressive policies – was locked in a race with Europe and the US. These factors made a turnaround in the foreign policy of big powers in the Middle East inevitable.

The Persian Gulf’s oil is no longer important for the US. The Persian Gulf sheikhdoms have entered a military phase to guarantee their partnership with the US and the role they can play in the Middle East; that’s why they have made investment in armed extremism. Any soil they set foot on – from Lebanon, Syria and Iraq to Bahrain and Afghanistan – they achieved nothing and lost control of the same terrorists they had nurtured and supported, and left nothing but growing insecurity and instability in their wake.

Attacks on Yemen are the latest example of the [sheikhdoms’] encroachments which – as the Western and Arab observers have put it – will turn Yemen into yet another quagmire of insecurity and terrorism in the Saudi backyard and at the head of the Gulf of Aden if it is not brought to a halt soon. This quagmire is likely to pull in the Saudi stability and order.

Continued partnership between the US, Europe, Russia, China and Persian Gulf sheikhdoms, especially Saudi Arabia, will largely lose its geopolitical and geostrategic value in the next three decades. Presumably, the political structure of these countries cannot digest and absorb the domestic and regional crises which are on the horizon.

Partnership with these countries – which have proven incapable of making any meaningful political reforms at home – will earn the US and its Western and Eastern partners nothing but trouble and discomfort, making them pay a price for such partnership. Not only have the Western politicians developed an understanding [of such a fact], but it is a while that the Russians and Chinese have been acting on such understanding.

This understanding has shown itself – at least twice – in meaningful remarks by the US president who said, “The problem for Sunni states in the region, many of whom are our allies, is not simply Iran. It’s not simply a Sunni-Shia issue [in the region]”, but their problems lie in their insoluble domestic issues and political structure. This structure cannot digest [people’s] dissatisfaction and a variety of domestic demands, and cannot offer the youth any better choice other than joining ISIL.

These remarks by the US president have severely enraged the Persian Gulf sheikhs and made them understandably concerned about being treated like marginal players [in the region] and about their waning days of engagement [in global affairs] thanks in large measure to the revival of geopolitical and geostrategic cooperation between Iran and world powers.

It is also clear for officials in Western countries, the US in particular, that Israel’s continued, blatant violation of UN resolutions is one main reason why threats against the Western interests are increasingly growing across the world. Israel’s insistence on building [Jewish] settlements in the occupied lands and its failure to accept a two-state solution are not simply an international and human rights issue for the Western governments; rather, they are a serious security problem.

The fact that Iran is turning into a weighty partner in its cooperation with world powers is a key factor Westerners hope can make Israel rethink its Palestine policy.

Mohammad-Mahdi Mojahedi is the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW) Visiting Professor of Comparative Political Theories, with a focus on Iranian and Islamic studies, human rights and methodology at Leiden University and a Visiting Professor of Political Science at Freie Universitat Berlin.
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