Zarif & Lavrov & Cavusoglu

In the new Persian Year, Iran should rely on proactive diplomacy to neutralize Trump

Iranian Diplomacy | Seyyed Ahmad Hosseini: Iran starts the new year while it struggles with complicated challenges at both its periphery and the international stage. The most significant characteristic of the new circumstances is the fleeting nature of its trends, something that calls for close, continuous monitoring and extreme vigilance vis-à-vis the developments.

While Iran was successful in controlling the situation during the last Persian year and continued to play the role of an influential actor in the regional and international stage, it faces more serious challenges in the new year.

Washington’s final decision on the nuclear deal, JCPOA, is important not only for Iran, but for all global actors. Tehran now faces Trump’s excessive demands and the conditions he has set for remaining in the agreement, and Europe’s efforts to mediate between Tehran and Washington and in the meantime, move along with the US to curb Iran’s influence. This is where Iranian diplomacy should prove its efficiency by acting not defensively, but proactively to release itself from fetters meant to limit its maneuverability. To attain this goals, there are several factors Tehran should take into consideration:

Washington’s future course

The recent reshufflings in the White House are yet another move to push out reasonable voices and replace them with adventurous figures who tend to solve problems through force, and see financial gain as the ultimate goal of every action. Add to this Trump’s longing to prove his superiority over previous presidents. Iran is the primary case where he wants to prove this.

The political future of Trump

The US president is facing a myriad of domestic challenges. Ad hoc decisions, purging the White House from reasonable politicians and replacing them with warmongers, the Russia dossier, the decline of US’ international prestige and soft power (manifested in the scandalous dismissal of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson), all can convince the establishment in Washington to intervene and cut Trump’s presidency short.

The dangerous alliance

A real threat for Iran at the moment is the alliance formed between the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia, with dangerous figures serving as the key decision-makers in the three political systems. Radical forces in these three countries are pursuing dangerous scenarios in Iran’s periphery, and Iran is the main target of their ploys. With accumulated media, political power, lobbying groups and money at their disposal, this nexus can be dangerous in whatever direction it moves.

Iran’s next move

At the face of these challenges, Iran should show patience, avoid ad hoc decisions and corner the US. To accomplish this mission:

–        A consensus should be created, not only between the establishment and public, but also between various factions inside the Islamic Republic. This consensus should be formed over policies ratified by the Supreme Leader and the President, i.e. policies which have taken Iran’s security and national interests into consideration.

–        Diplomacy is the best way to achieve goals, but we should be cautious about diplomacy when it turns into a tool by the West to force its own demands.

–        JCPOA is the center point of Iran’s confrontation with global powers, particularly the United States. If Washington decides to target Iran’s instruments of power without compliance to the spirit and letter of this agreement, that accounts as absolute abuse of trust in international relations and will bear no fruit.

–        Appeasing Washington to stay in the JCPOA at the expense of Iran and its other instruments of power is absolutely wrong. Our diplomatic experience, especially after the conclusion of the nuclear deal, proves that West’s approach is essentially based on excessive demands, stripping the opposite side from its power tools and increasing pressure. West is open to engagement and negotiation only when other parties possess certain leverages. As soon as they are stripped off the leverage, engagement is over. Ukraine is a good example, a country  disarmed after the collapse of the Soviet Union through pressure and hoax. With its hands empty, today Kiev is even ceding its territory [Crimea] to others.

–        Iran’s periphery region and West Asia is the key site of confrontation with the West. Looking at the trends and developments, one can see that the US and other Western countries lack any initiative in this area. The new Persian year should be a year of active regional diplomacy for Iran and implementation of smart scenarios to increase its influence and weight in the new order. In that way, global powers will understand that excessive demands and reneging on promises are no solution to any problem.

–        Public support for the establishment is the strongest deterrent against external pressures. Support comes with citizens’ satisfaction with their life quality and their approval of general policies. Iran should wield public support and solidarity as its leverage.

* This piece was originally published in Iranian Diplomacy Persian.