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Iran is sanguine about the fate of nuclear deal

By M K Bhadrakumar | Indian Punchline | December 1, 2016

82327585-71211007The Iranian official news agency IRNA carried a detailed summary of an interview given by the Speaker of the Majlis Ali Larijani to a Chinese TV network, regarding the fate of the Iran nuclear deal of July 2015 under the Donald Trump presidency in the United States.

These have been the most comprehensive remarks so far since the election of Trump, at an authoritative level in the Iranian leadership. Unsurprisingly, IRNA highlighted the interview. The salience remains to be that Iran is keeping an open mind on the incoming US president’s likely policies. (See my blog Iran keeps open mind on Donald Trump.)

However, Larijani’s latest remarks display a quiet confidence in Tehran that Trump’s campaign speeches regarding Iran will not translate as policies. Larijani is an accomplished statesman and when he flags that an American president’s policies ‘usually differ’ from his election rhetoric, it becomes a considered statement.

Tehran indeed should know. Ronald Reagan’s campaign speeches in 1980 in the middle of the hostage crisis were much more threatening than Trump’s. In fact, Iran was the leitmotif of Reagan’s campaign rhetoric against Jimmy Carter. Yet, some say the Reagan team didn’t want a denouement to the hostage crisis until the November election was over. (In fact, Iranians released the hostages soon after the election was over, but before Reagan moved into Oval Office.)

Reagan’s brilliant but devious campaign manager was none other than William Casey, who later had covert dealings involving Iran as head of the CIA in the new administration. It won’t be surprising if Iranians are jogging the memory. Only the other day Trump had shouted that Goldman Sachs had ‘total control’ over Hillary Clinton and yet his team already is stacked with Goldman insiders – Steve Bannon as chief White House strategist, Steven Mnuchin for the Treasury Secretary job and so on.

At any rate, Larijani pointed out that the US’ European allies (and Russia and China) may not go along with any US move to scuttle the Iran deal or reimpose sanctions. This is entirely plausible.

What Larijani left unsaid was about any back channel contact with the Trump team. He couldn’t have been explicit, of course. Interestingly, he also did not slam the door shut against the idea of Iran working with the US on regional issues. He merely said that so far American and Iranian regional policies have differed.

[Asked whether you are ready for cooperation with the US on regional issues, Larijani said, ‘We think that its policies in the region are against those of Iran’s.’

The US and the Zionist regime enjoy chaotic situation in the region, as they think their interests will be ensured under this condition while Iran has a different viewpoint as it thinks about a sustainable security in the region and believes that terrorism should be uprooted.

‘I think China and Russia are of the same attitude regarding the issues but the US and the Zionist regime think otherwise,’ Larijani said.]

Indeed, Trump’s move to work with Russia over the Syrian conflict cannot but involve Iran one way or another at an early stage itself. President Hassan Rouhani telephoned President Vladimir Putin on Monday and the Kremlin readout said the two leaders “highly rated the level of Russian-Iranian cooperation on the anti-terrorist track and agreed to work closely together to ensure the long-term normalization of the situation in Syria.”

What makes Iran an engrossing regional power is invariably the sophisticated intellectual underpinnings it gives to its foreign policies and regional strategy. So, how does Trump appear through the Iranian looking glass?

Glancing through the range of opinions in Iran, certain elements can be identified. First, in the excessive focusing on Trump’s colorful personality traits (which are, arguably, not more exotic than Reagan or George W. Bush’s), foreign observers have neglected the acuteness of the crisis within the United States, which has been steadily building up through recent decades.

Trump ultimately represents the class interests of the rich and the privileged and there is going to be a glaring shortfall in his ability or willingness to redeem his pledges to the marginalised and alienated sections of society. The seething anger is going to mount as it becomes clear that the ‘swamps’ which Trump promised to clean up remain an enduring fact of life. In sum, much of Trump’s attention will come to be trained on the challenges posed by the domestic political situation.

Second, Iranian scholars underscore the dialectics of the trans-Atlantic relationship. (The EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini visited Tehran thrice this year.) Trump is starting with a handicap since European opinion militates against his rise to power, not only in style but also in the content of his whole political platform. An unfriendly Europe will try to seek a new code of conduct, which in turn will compel Trump to trim his discourse.

Third, emanating from the above two factors, Iranian scholars assess that the US cannot afford to wage wars abroad. It neither has the money needed to spend on wars nor does it enjoy the political respite to take the eyes off the acute internal contradictions in the US’ political economy. Most certainly, an invasion such as the one in 2003 in Iraq is way beyond American capability. Europe will not join any US-led ‘coalition of the willing’, either. Thus, the limits to the US influence in the Middle East are already apparent.

All in all, therefore, a new concert of world powers is becoming necessary and unavoidable, especially with a major potential economic crisis staring at the world economy. Larijani’s cautious optimism can be put in perspective as the articulation of a rational assessment.

December 1, 2016 - Posted by | Economics, Militarism | , , ,

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