Iranian Diplomacy | Kaveh L. Afrasiabi: This article has been conceived as an open letter to the Poland’s leaders, who are planning a Middle East conference next month, initially announced by the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Although Mr. Pompeo explicitly stated that the conference’s focus on Iran will form one of the central elements of the conference, Polish diplomats in response to Tehran’s criticisms have pointed at the Foreign Ministry’s statement that defines the conference’s purpose to be focused on peace and stability in the Middle East. There are, therefore, diverging narratives about the conference that, understandably, have raised Iran’s concern that Poland despite friendly relations with Iran may have decided to become a “sub-contractor” for Trump administration and its overly hostile Iran policy.
Unfortunately, there are troubling signs that this may indeed be the case, given the fact that according to reports Poland has invited some seventy countries to the countries except Iran. What is the purpose of ignoring Iran, a pivotal Middle East country that has been at the front line of fighting ISIS terrorism and has excellent neighborly relations with nearly all its neighbors with a couple of exceptions? The answer can only point in one direction: Warsaw is appeasing Washington in orchestrating an international conference in order to shore up support for the flagging US policy on Iran, which has resulted in reinstituting sanctions after a unilateral withdrawal from the nuclear accord, which has been soundly criticized by all the member states of European Union including Poland.
As a responsible member of the international community, Poland has the responsibility to abide by the terms of UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which calls on all member states to implement the Iran nuclear accord. Inevitably, the coming Warsaw conference must address this important issue, which affects regional peace and stability, as the potential collapse of the accord following the US withdrawal will simply translate into a major setback for regional non-proliferation and further security headaches for Europe and the rest of the world.
Not only that, for a successful summit on the Middle East, all the existing sources of instability must be properly identified and the solutions to those problems addressed. The absence of any movement with respect to the Middle East peace process and the failure of Trump administration to make any meaningful headway in that direction cannot and should not escape the conference’s attention either. Nor should the conference participants ignore the current quagmire in Yemen, where the Saudi-led indiscriminate campaign has resulted in the largest humanitarian catastrophe in the world today. The fragile cease-fire in Yemen may collapse by the time the Warsaw conference convenes and all efforts must be devoted to ensuring a viable cease-fire as a prelude for meaningful and sustainable political settlement of the conflict.
With respect to Iran, it is important to bear in mind that Iran continues to fully implement the nuclear accord nearly 8 months after US’s withdrawal, thus demonstrating Iran’s rule-oriented behavior, in sharp contrast to US’s ‘rogue behavior’ in clear breach of UN Security Council. US behavior in the Middle East is portrayed as ‘model behavior’ by its defenders when, in reality, it is a major source of chaos and instability, vividly demonstrated in the recent “pretextual wars” after 11 September, 2001. A Middle East peace conference that would exonerate the US of any blames, such as its role in escalating a dangerous Middle East arms race, and seeks to deflect attention for the US and its regional allies acting hegemonically and with blatant disregard for regional tranquility, no doubt would be a sham reflecting badly on Polish government.
And yet, Poland today has a terrific and unique opportunity to act as trustworthy mediator and take concrete steps so that the upcoming conference can become a timely occasion to help the cause of peace and stability in the Middle East, instead of sowing division and fueling tensions. With the right approach and necessary ingredients, the Warsaw conference can become another Madrid Conference (of 1991), which paved the way to the Oslo Accords of 1993. Far from far-fetched, this historic opportunity exits because of several inter-related factors, beginning with the fact that “post-ISIS” Middle East today is in transition, slowly emerging from the vortex of one of the darkest chapters in its modern history. War-torn Iraq and Syria are starting to rebuild themselves, cease-fire is still holding in Yemen, and people are fed up with war-lordism in Libya. The threat of terrorism has subsided considerably compared to seven years ago, yet can re-emerge with new intensity if the various stakeholders in regional peace fail to take advantage of the present opportunities for peace and allow the region to lapse back into another vicious cycle of violence and mayhem.
Today, the US and Iran are at the precipice of open conflict, their bilateral tensions threatening to ignite the Middle East cauldron. Hence, the roots of US-Iran stand-off needs to be tackled at the Warsaw conference and remedies to diffuse the impending crisis found. In this regard, Poland has a unique opportunity to act as mediator between Iran and US, instead of the ally of the latter against the former. Iran and Poland have made a great stride toward expanding their relationship after the nuclear deal, which can be the basis for this role, whereby the Polish President can mediate between Presidents Trump and Rouhani. After all, despite his incendiary rhetoric against Iran, Trump has repeatedly admitted Iran’s fight against terrorism and his administration has granted sanctions waivers to Iraq, Turkey, and India, i.e., countries that have normal trade and non-trade relations with Iran. The White House has even conceded that Iran plays a ‘calming’ role in Afghanistan. Henceforth, the Warsaw conference can become an occasion to dwell on Iran’s real and tangible contributions to regional peace and prosperity, instead of demonizing Iran and adding to Middle East fire.
In conclusion, a prudent approach by Poland today is to resist the pressure by hawkish American politicians to lend itself to their Iranophobic cause, which can only mean more and not less instability in the region, and to steer its own independent course of action by using the parameters of conflict-prevention and peacemaking. Warsaw should not miss this important opportunity, which if seized on will undoubtedly add to Poland’s international prestige, whereas by following the hawkish agenda of bashing-Iran, not only Poland loses credibility, it will also turn into an accomplice of Washington’s warmongers, who thirst for another calamitous Middle East war without any qualm about the suffering and other unwanted consequences. For a country that is only too aware of the painful results of wars, Poland today is at the crossroad of history and, hopefully, it will make the right decision.