We buy what the worst enemies of Tehran tell us

Stephen Kinzer

Stephen Kinzer, a Brown University lecturer, has said that the US Congress is likely to reject the Iran nuclear deal, but President Obama will veto its decision and this will help implement the deal.

An American university professor says that Foreign Minister Zarif can be another Mossadegh or Amir Kabir for the Iranians capable of changing the country’s destiny in the future.

Stephen Kinzer, a lecturer at Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs in Brown University, has taken a look – in his book – at the August 18, 1953 coup in Iran [which toppled the government of Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh] and its impact on ties between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran.

All the Shah’s Men is a novel-like book which tells about the 1953 coup in Iran in a narrative form. Over the years, Kinzer covered news for The New York Times from 50 countries. He has written a number of books on the Middle East and Iran.

Tolou Sobh, an Iranian weekly, has in an interview asked about Kinzer’s take on the Iran nuclear deal. The following is the translation of the interview in its entirety:

 

One month ago, Iran and P5+1 reached an agreement after twelve years of talks. How do you assess the Iran nuclear deal? What do you think caused the parties to the talks to walk down that path [toward conclusion of a deal]?    

Iran, a Shiite power, is the enemy of radical Sunnis such as ISIL, Alqaeda, and the Taliban. If the US is really seeking to take on these [radical] movements, Iran would be a logical partner.

In the meantime, economic opportunities led Iran and the US to strike a deal. Iran is the world’s biggest untapped market with 80 million literate people who are interested in American products. Iran, which is rich in oil and gas reserves, can buy anything it seeks, so there are potentially big profits [for the US] in Iran.

Iran also influences other areas in the Middle East, among them Iraq, Syria and Yemen. President Obama says that he can solve regional disputes with Iran’s help.

What were the distinctive features of the Vienna talks that prompted foreign ministers of six world powers and that of Iran to have a three-week stay in the Austrian capital?

Zarif and Kerry were determined to conclude an agreement. Any breakdown could have been a very bad event. They both knew about this and together with their teams they made great endeavors to arrive at the best deal possible.

Following the announcement of the nuclear deal, loud voices were heard from the US Congress calling for the derailment of the deal. Given this, do you think the nuclear deal will be sustainable?  

Opposition to the deal in Washington has nothing to do with Iran’s behavior. The past measures, including the hostage-taking in the US embassy [in Iran], have made us blind to national interests. We buy what the worst enemies of Tehran tell us and view Iran as a country which has delivered the biggest blow to us, but we cannot see the blows we dealt to Iran and pay no attention to them.

I should say that Congress is likely to reject the Iran nuclear deal, but Obama will veto its decision and this will help implement the deal.

Now that a deal has been clinched, Mohammad Javad Zarif has become very popular with Iranians and many go so far as to describe him as Mossadegh or Amir Kabir of the time. Given that you have extensively studied Iranian history, what do you think?

Zarif deserves to take a lot of credit for the deal, so does John Kerry. Still the deal was one single incident. Amir Kabir and Mossadegh were national leaders who deeply influenced the destiny of Iran. Zarif may be able to do just that in the future. For now, however, he’s a successful negotiator and that is enough for the Iranians to take pride in him.

Just like opponents of the nuclear deal on Capitol Hill, in Iran some are very critical of the Vienna accord and describe it as a new Turkmenchay Treaty [by which Persia ceded to Russia control of several northern areas]. Do you basically see the Vienna accord as one such agreement for Iran, or the US for that matter?

Turkmenchay and the Vienna deal are polar opposites, because the latter has been based on mutual respect and serves the interests of both sides. It does not entail the surrender of sovereign rights, not does it constitute a blow to either party.

Some believe that the deal Iran and P5+1 have clinched can set the stage for improvement in relations between Iran and the United States, what’s your take on that?

Iran-US animosities on the international stage date back 36 years. Such poisoned ties are part of a structure which is extremely difficult to shatter. In fact, under the circumstances, Tehran and Washington are looking for new reasons to hate each other. They need to try to break out of the present conditions first.

Emad Askarieh
Emad Askarieh has worked as a journalist since 2002. The main focus of his work is foreign policy and world diplomacy. He started his career at Iran Front Page Media Group, and is currently serving as the World Editor and the Vice-President for Executive Affairs at the Iran Front Page (IFP) news website.
   
   

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