Iran and a host of intertwined problems

By Karl Reiner

On January 12, the P5+1 (the UN Security Council’s five permanent members plus Germany) and Iran reached agreement on a joint plan to freeze Iran’s nuclear program for six months. The next more difficult step will be to negotiate Khamenei 2a long-term agreement. Given the differences remaining between the positions of the parties, many skeptics don’t think a final deal can be reached. Other analysts think the effort will

falter because Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is not willing to give up the option to acquire nuclear weapons. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu doesn’t like any of it. He sees the talks as a major blunder, an Iranian stall to gain extra time.

There is growing support in Congress for placing additional sanctions on Iran. There are serious doubts about what Iranian President Rouhani can actually deliver. Not everyone believes he has a real mandate for change. There is a suspicion that he is the friendly face sent to shield the stall tactics of Iran’s supreme leader. The move in the Senate to impose new sanctions does make President Obama look feeble. With Congress smugly failing to acknowledge the agreements that have been reached so far, President Obama is seen by Iran’s hardliners as not being in control of his foreign policy. In this tension filled environment, Iran’s policy of non-recognition and hostility toward Israel doesn’t help matters.

Ayatollah Khamenei did not permit the election of President Rouhani. The regime was facing a host of economic mismanagement problems plus the consequences of an erratic nuclear policy that brought on sanctions and IRAN-VOTE-REGISTRATION-ROWHANIisolation. Serious internal rifts made the government incapable of doing a repeat of the election swindle of 2009. In an unexpected turn of election results, the population quickly made clear its desire for change. Ayatollah Khamenei was stuck with accepting the expressed will of the people because Iran hypes itself as a place that abides by election results.

The hardliners in Tehran would be delighted to see President Hassan Rouhani unable to get an agreement and sanctions relief. Ayatollah Khamenei supports the effort by Rouhani because he has to, not because he agrees with it. If the talks succeed Khamenei will be able take credit for it. If they fail, the deeply Iran  map Hoomistrustful Khamenei will have proof that Iran has to resist rather than collaborate with the West. He can shove the country’s woolly-minded moderates and pragmatists back to the margins of Iranian politics. With the Rouhani effort a demonstrated failure, power will shift back to the hardliners with a vengeance.

If diplomacy fails and new sanctions are applied, it could eventually lead to military intervention in Iran. Iran’s distrustful supreme leader may already believe that war is a near certainty. If it comes after the failure of diplomacy, the Khamenei regime believes it will be in a better position to survive. If diplomacy succeeds, Iran will see many benefits in the short-term. Ayatollah Khamenei will then have to face a situation not to his liking, the new political environment brought about by Iran’s forces of moderation.

Iran strongly backs Bashar Assad’s government in Syria. The civil war in Syria has killed over 130,000, displaced millions, wrecked the economy and is destabilizing neighboring countries as Syrian refugees flood in. After being invited, Iran was disinvited from the Syrian peace conference in Switzerland that opened on January 22. Besides revealing a grievous lack of coordination, the withdrawing of Iran’s invitation did let suspicious people in Washington, Jerusalem, Riyadh and Tehran know that the ongoing touchy nuclear discussions with Iran has not caused the U.S. to tilt toward the Iranians on other regional matters.

Secretary of State Kerry has 120 people working with the Israelis and Palestinians in an effort to develop an agreement on a two state solution to the Sec Kerry 1long festering Palestinian issue. After six months of effort, they may be coming close to hammering out the terms of a framework agreement. Iranian supported Hamas controls the Gaza Strip. Hamas is not a party to the framework program and can be expected to object to any settlement.

The government of Iran wants the U.S to accept it as a political reality, give up the idea of regime change and assent to Iran’s rightful place as a regional power in the Persian Gulf. Because of the possibility for cooperation in certain areas, diplomacy may yet be able to work its magic. Iran needs U.S. support to bring an end to its international isolation. The U.S. would like to see Iran’s nuclear bomb issue peacefully resolved. A wide scope of regional concerns could benefit from Iranian support or benign neglect, the Syrian matter, Afghanistan and the possible peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. Iran also has a great deal of influence with the shaky new government in Iraq. It is a good thing that Secretary Kerry’s diplomats are salaried, the attempt to sort out and resolve these challenging and intertwined issues would otherwise result in a lot of overtime pay.

2 responses to “Iran and a host of intertwined problems

  1. Bruce Freiberg

    If it is fair for Iran to be the object of the West’s scrutiny, inspections and sanctions based on the premise that Iran MIGHT develop nuclear weapons, then why is it not also fair for Israel to be the object of that same scrutiny, inspections and sanctions? As a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty, Iran has every right to develop nuclear power, while Israel refuses to sign the treaty or even acknowledge its nuclear arsenal. Israel has developed and maintained the largest nuclear arsenal in the Middle East for years, all with a wink and a nod from the Western powers who have allowed Israel to thumb its nose at international law since its inception. Why is Israel, the most aggressive state in the world, continually given a free pass to act with impunity whenever and wherever it wants? The Iranian “problem” has been manufactured and promoted only because Israel fears Iran’s challenge to its hegemony in the region, and Israel is the tail that wags its US servant. Enough is enough.

  2. Frances Perkins

    If the Israeli Government believes the only solution to Iran is senile McCain’s bomb, bomb, Iran, we are all in a lot of trouble. There seems to be a segment of America who supports the military solution ( if any) first, and the Israeli government, no matter what they do, counterproductive, or not. The military solution is always available, but it rarely solves the underlying problem, and generally just screws things up for 30 years or more. Diplomacy never hurts and sometimes helps. In this case let the agreement play put, inspectors are on the ground in Iran, something that never happened in the last 30 years, and that is an accomplishment. The West has been trying to “manage” the Middle East for over 100 years and it is still a mess. Besides the American people are rightly sick of military adventures and lost people and dollars to no real end. Trying something different might be better. The West vacuumed their collective consciences after World War 2 with the foundation of Israel, but after World War 1 all the Zionists wanted was free immigration.