In his first public remarks since the U.S.-Iran agreement in Vienna, Hezbollah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah said Tehran would confound critics who say it would end support to Hezbollah. “Iran’s relationship with its allies is based on ideological grounds and come before the political interests,” and “The United States is the Great Satan before and after the deal,” he said, according to Reuters. The word ‘critics’ says the deal is controversial also among the Iranian hardliners, not only the American ones.
Western liberals are mostly in favor of the deal, but I have met almost no fellow western liberals who understand the Middle Eastern culture well enough to see the real picture.
In the Middle East, when it comes to people who don’t get along, the real negotiations start after the deal is struck, because then there is a relation to manage. Until then, negotiations are about if there will be a relation or not.
Now that a U.S.-Iran relation is on the table, the negotiation about what that really means has begun.
Iran is now assuring their friends they will not let them down. give in to enemies, or befriend the U.S. They will certainly not sell out Nasrallah to Kerry, they would lose all credibility if they did.
The White House opened their guard by committing to the deal before receiving the backing from Congress. Supreme leader Khamenei is seizing the opportunity of ridiculing the White House while they are fighting the congress to ratify the deal. The insult drives home the message to his constituency: he has not sold out.
After signing, the next negotiation starts, this one is about implementation. Iran will avoid inspections as much as it is possible without sanctions being reimposed. Since it is a big deal to reimpose sanctions, inspections will be constantly challenged. What’s more, Iranian non-compliance will make them look one up on the U.S. They have the incentives to not comply.
“The access of inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) or from any other body to Iran’s military centers is forbidden,” says Iranian Supreme Leader’s top adviser for international affairs Ali Akbar, according to the Iranian Fars News, He says Iran will not allow inspection of its military sites under any conditions and irrespective of the different interpretations that the Group 5+1 could have of the Vienna agreement. The supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, says “They (the foreigners) shouldn’t be allowed at all to penetrate into the country’s security and defensive boundaries under the pretext of supervision, and the country’s military officials are not permitted at all to allow the foreigners to cross these boundaries or stop the country’s defensive development under the pretext of supervision and inspection.” Head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) Ali Akbar Salehi says that the Paragraph 30 under the Article 5 of the NPT Additional Protocol (which has not been yet accepted by Iran and should be approved by the parliament for implementation) allows the inspectors to inspect the vicinities of the non-nuclear sites, but they misinterpret that and intend to enter those sites, which will not be allowed.
There is enough right there to realize the implementation of inspections will be a quagmire.
The best U.S. strategy is to ensure they have a sliding scale of disincentives that they can apply proportionally, unilaterally, with greatest ease. If the Iranians won’t open the door for a group of inspectors, the U.S. might freeze some bank accounts, or something of the same magnitude. This will preserve their position of negotiation, and at least stop them from looking helpless. But even so, it’s difficult to see how inspections can succeed.
The release of sanctions is the more interesting part of the deal, and potentially more dangerous for the Iranian regime. The U.S. will be expected to help strengthen the Iranian opposition by doing business with them. Some Iranian leaders are already now discussing that threat.
“Iran’s enemies and those who imposed sanctions against the country are seeking to capture our market right after the final agreement (between Iran and the world powers); we should not let this happen,” and “People should boycott the commodities of these criminals,” says Brigadier General Naqdi, Commander of Iran’s Basij (volunteer) Force.
Iran will have to focus on controlling the increased business, not letting the U.S. and Iranian opposition leverage on it. It is not a trivial task. General Naqdi’s suggestions of boycott and that the goods which can be produced in Iran should not be imported at all, are about as realistic as the prospects of successful nuclear inspections, and they will certainly be much less popular with the home audience.
But there are other ways of staying on top. Erdogan in Turkey has shown great skill in using political and judicial power for strengthening business empires run by family members or loyalists, and owning the market and the narrative by excessive spending on large symbolic projects, like the presidential palace. China has been successful in placing the power over the market inside the party, and have ended up being better served by many western capitalists than governments in democracies.
The opportunity and challenge for the U.S. will be to build economic power with Western-friendly Iranian business people, while seeing to that the Iranian regime does not manage to gain control over it.