Over the past four months, the Obama administration has been sending good will signals to the Iranian regime and has confirmed its policy of overture toward Tehran. Obama’s Nowrouz message combined with the entry of two well known Iranian-American experts into the administration, illustrates this trend.
Ray Takeyh has been nominated as a member of Dennis Ross team in the State Department and Vali Nasr has become Richard Holbrook’s top advisor. Both these experts are known to advocate a friendly policy toward the theocratic regime.
The combination of these elements has caused a series of concerns. For the majority of Iranians, the growing concern continues that in order to stop the Iranian nuclear threat, the US would reward the Clerical power and ultimately, would help to strengthen the Mullahs’ hold on power. This scenario would exacerbate the already dark human right situation in Iran and add to the suffering of Iranian people.
This concern is also shared by the Arab leaders in the region who do not trust US regional policy and have fears of a compromise deal between Iran and US which would undermine the security of Arab nations. Apparently, one of the main goals of Ross’s next week trip to the Middle East is to assure the Arab leaders that such scenario is not envisaged by Obama administration. As laura Rozen wrote in her blog:1
“With the Obama administration's Iran review seemingly completed, and the president and secretary saying they plan to engage in direct diplomacy, Ross's trip "is about reassuring allies that they are notgoing to make a grand deal with Iran at their expense, an administration source suggested.
A large number of American politicians fear that the Obama’s willingness to engage Iran will buy the Mullahs enough time to acquire nuclear weapons. There is also the concern that the US will finally give in to the Iranian demand for keeping some enrichment activity inside the country.
Obama’s declared policy
The American overture toward Iran is not new. During the Clinton administration, a serious effort was made to bring Iran to the negotiations table. The US demand was finally rejected by Iran. In fact, over the past three decades, different administrations have consecutively tried to reach out to Tehran and all have failed.
There is, however, a huge difference between Obama’s overture and the past failed initiatives. The difference is the timing of this overture. According to the general consensus, there is not much time left before the Islamic regime will acquire the nuclear capability.
This deadline is forcing the US to use all its diplomatic leverage to persuade Iran to abandon its program. What will happen if all US gestures are finally turned down by Iran? This should also be answered in the view of that deadline.
The US is currently pursuing a refined version of stick-carrot policy. For the time being, all sanctions remain in place, while no new sanctions are adopted. The incentives are augmented while the US will join in the negotiations and Iran will be given a short period of several months to accommodate international exigencies.
The US overture has the primary aim of preempting the Iranian campaign of portraying itself as a victim of US aggressive plans for the overthrow of the Clerical regime. This campaign by the Islamic regime was indeed effective during the Bush administration because of the unjustified war with Iraq and the WMD dilemma. The US overtures will also prepare the grounds for a future consensus among allies to adopt serious sanctions against Iran in case of the failure of all diplomatic efforts.
This US policy is well explained in Mrs. Clinton’s remarks during last week’s Congressional hearings. On April 22, she vigorously defended President Obama’s recent overtures to Iran, insisting that:
“The US would be in a better position to organize “crippling” international sanctions should diplomacy fail… stopping Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon was one of the Obama administration’s highest priorities…. We actually believe that by following the diplomatic path we are on, we gain credibility and influence with a number of nations who would have to participate in order to make the sanctions regime as tight and as crippling as we would want it to be”
“We know the imperative of preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. After years during which the United States basically sat on the sidelines, we are now a full partner” in international talks with Iran.
We are deploying new approaches to the threat posed by Iran, and we’re doing so with our eyes wide open and with no illusions”.
“It is going to be a more successful engagement if our partners around the world understand they must work with us,” including on consultations aimed at imposing tougher sanctions against Iran. The fact that we are engaging ... actually gives us more leverage with other nations."
There are however, many who do not share Mrs. Clinton’s optimism. They believe that the time is short, the US allies will remain unwilling to use all their leverage, Russia and China will not cooperate and finally, these sanctions will not dissuade Iran.
Moreover, the entry of Ray Takeyh and Vali Nasr, the two pro-appeasement advisors into the policy decision making circles, combined with the America’s misconceptions about the outcome of Iranian June elections, have given good reasons to those who criticize the current administration for maintaining the thirty years old illusions about the Islamic regime of Tehran.
This pessimism is further legitimized by the fact that very powerful circles, mainly close to the oil interests, do not support long term sanctions against Iran. For many of these circles, it is better to have a nuclear Iran with whom they can have normal business rather than an Iran under strict sanctions that would eventually be ousted from the market as the second largest oil and gas reserve of the world.
These are the same people who for the past 30 years have downplayed the Iranian threat and have pushed a co-existence agenda with the Mullahs. This view is best represented by Zbigniew Brzezinski who promotes the idea that US can co-exist with a nuclear Iran without any significant threat to its security.
Brzezinski had already predicted3 that the Mullahs take over of power in 1979 would be the best scenario for US. Previously, He had advised the Carter administration to close its eyes to the Pakistani’s efforts when acquiring the nuclear weapon. He had also predicted in 2004 that the pragmatist would replace Mohammad Khatami. Ahmadinejad’s election as the president is a sign of Brzezinski’s insightful analysis.
In a few months, the Obama administration will be faced with a real dilemma; either leading the world to confront the Iranian regime on the verge of acquiring the deadly weapon or, surrendering to those lobbies who with no hesitation will advance their own agenda to the detriment of US strategic interests.
Could Obama resist these powerful lobbies? This is the question.
1. The Cable: http://thecable.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2009/04/27/ross_to_middle_east_with_nscs_talwar_centcoms_allen
3. Brzezinski and the Iranian bomb: http://www.globalpolitician.com/25536-foreign-policy-iran