National Security

US Sanctions & Nuclear Iran

By Rana Athar Javed

Balancing pressures with diplomacy is recommended by the “Iran Project”, a non-profit group that promotes US-Iran dialogue. With multinational nuclear talks with Iran apparently hindered, the US sanctions to “bite even harder and for Iran’s leadership to get past presidential elections in June 2013”. A relax-sanction regime in exchange for nuclear concessions is another way to avoid what an American commentator described, “the strategic and moral bankruptcy of the US”. The Obama administration claims that the sanction policy toward Iran is aimed to achieve a wide range of objectives, without realizing its implications for Iran and regional economies.

Historically, the US sanctions target both civil & military areas, in order to isolate, convince and recruit anti-state/anti-nuclear opposition within the respective state. In the case of Iran, activating reformist and secular forces to build a sustainable opposition to the system of velayat-e-faqih (absolute Guardianship of an Islamic Jurist), is the most suitable option.

The other options are being attached to several familiar diplomatic/policy expressions including “changing Iran’s “nuclear calculus,” getting Iran “back to the negotiating table” and making it “negotiate in good faith,” strengthening the “credibility and leverage” of “pro-engagement camps” inside Iran, preventing military action by the United States and Israel, “political signaling” at home and abroad, and maintaining “unity” within the P5+1). How the US sanctions will facilitate the way US-Israeli narratives are building unconventional methods of engagement with potentials of a nuclear Iran is a vital query?

The character of both the options however must be understood in the backdrop of discourse on politics within Iran, especially in relationship with globalization and post-revolutionary socio-cultural logic. This argument stems from the fact that with every year into the twenty-first century, the cumulative impact of historical images of Iranian ‘Self” and ‘Others’ has been growing, and an ideological battlefield is marked out for continued arguments pro et contra in the perennial debate on moderate vs. traditional values about Iran’s international role.

There is a broad sense of misplaced and disbelieved memory about modernity, and relationship with the United States, and hence a sharp dividing line between reestablishing ties with the US or transforming Iran’s capacity to stand-up against the US-Israeli nexus. It is this dichotomy, which defines the impact of Western democratic values and technological advances on Iranian foreign/security policies.

Conversely, the Israeli Defence Minister, Moshe Ya’alone warned that Israel must prepare for the possibility of striking Iran’s nuclear program on its own […and] that Iran is unimpressed with the West’s steps against its nuclear program…“The world’s response to the Iranian nuclear program was delayed. The fact that centrifuges in Iran are continuing to spin and that enriched uranium has already been collected; proves that the regime in Tehran is not impressed by these steps taken so far. Even more so, the regime in Tehran does not identify determination in the Western world to stop its nuclear project and it therefore allows itself to continue to develop it,” (Independence Day speech in Herzliya, Israel – April 16, 2013).

The intertextual reference to “world’s delayed response” in this quote on Iran’s nuclear program describes the weaknesses of sanction regime and implicitly demonstrates Israel’s diplomatic isolation, especially in terms of an aborted “world project” to attack Iran before it become a nuclear power. More allegations followed by hinting at a weak decision-making system in the world capitals, due to which, the Iranian nuclear program continue to progress, a concern that is shown in the shape of a clear intention: “Israel must prepare for the possibility of striking Iran’s nuclear programme on its own”. The implicit hints of complicity of Western powers in supporting Iran’s nuclear programme are also causing a type of mistrust between Israel and the European countries.

On the other hand, the Supreme Leader of Iran, Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei stated that “If the US wants a diplomatic solution to the nuclear issue, it’s very easy:  recognize Iran’s right to safeguarded enrichment, stop trying to get them to suspend, stop trying to get them to go to zero enrichment and we can have a nuclear deal.”  The ‘clarity of voice’ of defiance against the US sanction regime includes showing where the discourse appears to be intentionally aims at pacifying the “Iranian Self”, the Supreme Leader seems exclusively authoritarian and emphatically argumentative. This reflection also addresses the inherent system of decision-making under which the national security and nuclear programme are not negotiable commodities.

To be concluded, “…It is time for the [the US] administration to make the sweat equity investment in negotiations equal to” the effort put into sanctions and the military option, said Thomas Pickering, a veteran former US ambassador. “The president has to make the decision he wants a deal and instruct his people that he wants a deal.”

This argument is exactly in line with the current US policy approach to withdraw from war-zones and stabilize the regions of South Asia and Middle East. Negotiating Iran’s nuclear programme will be just an additional effort to avoid a wider instability project of the vested interests. Therefore, the US must give peace a chance and respect the technological sovereignty of developing nations in the twenty-first century.