With nuclear talks between Iran and P5+1 in full swing in New York, the following might help you appreciate why the Iranian top negotiator recently said both sides need to make a “hard decision”.
Kayhan newspaper ran an opinion piece by Hossein Shariatmadari on September 22 under the title of “The rival’s new dream”. This brief title indicates a change in the tone used by the daily’s managing editor – his replacement of signature “enemy” with “rival”.
Shariatmadari, a theoretician and analysttrusted by part of the Principlist faction’s policymakers and politicians, politely, yet in critical tone, warns Iran’s nuclear negotiators and officials at the helm of the Islamic Republic’s diplomacy machine not to handle the ongoing New York talks in a fashion similar to last November when they inked the Geneva Interim Agreement – which produced no result – just three months after President Rouhani’s government came to office.
In a word, Kayhan assesses the Geneva deal as “a generous in-cash concession in exchange for on-credit promises”. It reminds the country’s negotiating team of the unreliability of the “rival”, citing an attempt by the US secretary of state at flexing American muscle.
The daily refers to remarks by John Kerry, hours after the conclusion of the Geneva Interim Agreement, who described “the suspension and shutdown of uranium enrichment” as commitment on the part of Iran and quite an achievement [for the West], something which – in Shariatmadari’s words – came across as shocking even to members of Iran’s negotiating team led by Mohammad Javad Zarif.
Kayhan underlines its concern about “making a non-nuclear decision” for which the nuclear challenge could be an excuse, citing an assessment on July 24, 2014 by Jofi Joseph, a former director in the non-proliferation section of the National Security Council at an Atlantic Council meeting.
This is how Shariatmadari explains the reason behind his concern, “… Whispers have been circulating in recent months among US politicians and policymakers, those who are under the illusion that any support for the Iranian government could bring Washington closer to its main objective, which has been defined outside the nuclear challenge.
“They are predicating their assumption on the presence of certain Western-inclined elements in the Iranian government and its close ties with members of the Sedition Camp [the Green Movement which emerged following the 2009 presidential elections in protest at the election results. The Sedition Camp is a metaphorical reference to reformists and the current affiliated to former President Seyyed Mohammad Khatami].
“They believe if the current government leaves the talks empty-handed, the reformist camp suffers a heavy blow in the court of public opinion.”
The columnist wants to warn the “rival” to stop harboring illusions that it can use the nuclear deal to secure non-nuclear goals. In other words, the talks do not provide an opportunity for the Islamic Republic of Iran to fall back under American domination, although, as Kayhan puts it, some members of the Sedition Camp have urged the United States not to miss out on the “golden opportunity that arose with the rise to power of moderates”.
Given the likelihood of misinterpretation of his comments by the readers, Shariatmadari then says, “No doubt, just like members of the Iranian negotiating team, Rouhani is part of the Islamic establishment and knows that in the talks ahead, he’s leading the people many of whom have made sacrifices and fallen martyr in quest of securing glory for their country.”
In the final paragraph, though, the columnist once again uses the term “enemy” instead of “rival” and says, “In the nuclear standoff the enemy is not simply dealing with the esteemed government; rather, it is dealing with a great nation that follows the instructions of its Imam [a reference to the Supreme Leader]. So the latest ploy of securing a nuclear deal for the sake of non-nuclear objectives will fail just like dozens of even more sophisticated ploys in the past.”
On the same day President Rouhani departed for New York, the daily had the following advice for the moderate president and his colleagues:
“At this point, in order to prevent the enemy from getting greedier, the political terminology the esteemed president and the Iranian nuclear negotiating team employ should be more compatible with our firm revolutionary principles. For instance, at a time when the US does not miss out on any opportunity to bring its grudge and hostility to bear against Iran and evade its commitments, our dear brother Dr. Zarif should not have said, ‘If President Obama makes a promise, we’ll trust him,’…”
It should be noted that the column ends in ellipsis dots which seem to suggest that more criticism will come along.
The newspaper opens another column by explaining why it has not aimed more criticism at the performance of the Iranian diplomacy machine. “We thought it would not be expedient to talk about what comes next. We believed and still believe that the Iranian negotiating team and Iranian officials are too smart to let the rival keep its new ploy under wraps.”
In another column by Mohammad Imani on Tuesday the daily’s new opinion piece adopts a more open tone and does nothing to hide the ongoing hostility between Iran and the United States.
He says, “No one can deny the fact that the US has been constantly hostile to the Iranian nation over the past six decades. Besides, no one can doubt the fact that the United States has either attacked or staged coups against 50 countries around the world. So everyone should regard the US as an irreconcilable enemy of nations, one which does not believe in fair deals, and one that cannot be trusted as a partner. Identification of the hegemonic, acquisitive and deal-breaking US administration as a normal government and a diplomatic partner is the first mistake.”
The piece later recalls the readers who are in favor of talks with the US of seven rounds of inconclusive talks between Iran and P5+1 which have seen trust hit the rock-bottom and says, “The Americans think about nothing but Iranian surrender.” It warns that any submission in foreign policy is bound to result in further audacity, acquisitiveness and aggressiveness on the other side.
The piece suggests the fact that Iran’s permanent seat at the UN has remained vacant over the past eight months thanks to American failure to grant a visa to Hamid Abutalebi, who according to a report by Fars News Agency on Sept. 22 seems to hold views similar to Javad Zarif, amounts to insistence on the part of the American administration to insult and humiliate Iran.
Mohammad Imani further says American insistence on continuing to insult and humiliate the Iranians is an attempt to prompt miscalculations among Iranian policymakers and decision-makers so that in dealing with America Iranian diplomats ignore the country’s local potential and speak from a position of weakness rather than strength. The author goes on to suggest that over the past three decades, Iran’s authority both at home and abroad has increased and at the same time the American influence has been on the wane.
The author then reminds the Iranian negotiators that they have a responsibility not to fall prey to the American strategy to downplay the Iranian power.
It says what is important is to maintain enrichment on an industrial scale, not have a collection of useless centrifuges that are good for nothing but display. In conclusion Imani expresses his concern by saying “What is alarming is that the Americans might assume that one year after rising to power and months after striking the Geneva deal, the Iranian government is ready to strike another agreement, just like that.”