September 18, 2013
Iran’s newly-elected President Hassan Rohani is reportedly turned to be concessional in order to reach an agreement over the nuclear program of his country. After a long-running standoff with the West, Rohani seems to abandon the absolutism of his predecessor ex-President Ahmadinejad and try to get closer to the US demands for opacity over Iran’s nuclear program. Is this decision going to be impeded by the supreme leader of the country Ayatollah Ali Khamenei or is it a well-developed diplomatic shift?
Iran’s economy is in a disastrous situation. The imposed embargo on trade has left the country extremely poor as the purchasing power of the national currency, rial, is constantly dwindling and inflation is getting higher and higher, having already reached an increase of 40% since last year. Iran cannot export the fundamental source of its economic strength, oil and gas, a fact that is additionally pressing the country into bankruptcy. The banks are debt-ridden and millions of households can no longer meet their financial responsibilities. One of the last things that keeps Iran away from deep social turmoil is the incomparable appeal that the demonizing rhetoric of the Islamic guardians against the West is exerting to the public along with the hopes over the energy self-sufficiency that Iran could reach after the completion of the uranium-enrichment process.
Rohani’s intention to start direct talks with the United States and the International Atomic Energy Agency is considered to be a path towards normalizing bilateral relations and bridging a different pathway regarding the international concerns over Iran’s program. Rohani needs the support of Khamenei, but this may be achieved if the religious leader of Iran is to be persuaded that Iran will receive in exchange a similar concessional behavior by the side of the United States regarding the embargo. In this respect, are the United States and President Mr. Obama willing to move on and start softening their position against the embargo? As Washington is getting more and more concerned about burden-sharing in the Middle East, especially after the acceptance of President Putin’s proposal over Syria, we should possibly expect a similar shift in his strategy in Iran as well.
What is more, there is also a practical issue that needs to be answered. Who will be in charge of dismantling and monitoring this complex and high-risk nuclear establishment of Iran? And, further, how all these centrifuges could be possibly displaced or transported? These questions are wandering around the strategic planning of the United States and can certainly be a strong negotiation advantage in favor of the Iranians. The decision-makers that will balance what is the less risky scenario that could cater both sides, will definitely be the winners of this long-held chess game.
For the moment, the proposition of President Rohani, which might be seemingly depreciating for the interests of Iran, can apparently constitute a strong argument against the determined will of the United States to destroy Iran’s nuclear program. In other words, Rohani is indirectly asking the Americans: “Alright, we are planning to shut down our nuclear sites. But could you please tell me who will assume the burden of safely deconstructing and transporting all our sites without risking an environmental accident for thousands of people and for our next generations?”.
Mastering the Americans isn’t that easy, isn’t it?Dimitris Rapidis