by Dr. Majid Rafizadeh
President Obama is not willing to admit to the failure of the talks. Instead of admitting defeat, he desperately signed a flimsy, worthless nuclear deal with the Islamic Republic. In the hasty process he gave numerous concessions in order to disguise and dress up his failure as a historic diplomatic achievement. Khamenei is well aware of this desperation.
It is troubling, saddening, and intriguing to watch how the second longest serving autocrat in the Middle East, Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is openly exploiting and playing with President Obama and his administration.
Khamenei is cognizant of Obama’s façade; over the years he has spent a considerable amount of political capital on the nuclear talks. Now President Obama is not willing to admit to the failure of the talks. Instead of admitting defeat, he desperately signed a flimsy, worthless nuclear deal with the Islamic Republic. In the hasty process he gave numerous concessions in order to disguise and dress up his failure as a historic diplomatic achievement. Khamenei is well aware of this desperation.
The nuclear deal was sealed, and ratified by the Iranian parliament (Majlis) under the rule of the Supreme Leader. Nevertheless, Khamenei was not going to leave Mr. Obama alone. As a shrewd dictator, his agenda is to invest and capitalize more on the aforementioned weakness and desperation of Obama in order to obtain more bonuses.
In other words, knowing that Obama desires to leave office with a superficial diplomatic achievement to display, the (flimsy and worthless) nuclear deal rather than with a failure of the nuclear agreement, the ayatollah is going to get more concessions from Obama, even after the nuclear deal has been sealed.
Apparently, based on the Supreme Leader’s new guideline to his president which is posted on his site, Facebook and his twitter account in both Persian and English languages, Khamenei is setting new conditions for the nuclear deal or JCPOA. He has made clear demands that the United States and other European countries must guarantee and provide “solid and sufficient” proof that all economic sanctions against the Islamic Republic are lifted before Iran fulfills its part and complies with the terms of the nuclear agreement.
It seems that all the years spent on the nuclear talks and the signing of the nuclear deal were apparently a joke to the Supreme Leader, because his new condition of lifting sanctions before Tehran’s compliance violates one of the most important pillars of the deal that was reached.
In addition, the Supreme Leader’s other condition is to eliminate any snap back option of the sanctions. So, first he wants sanctions to be lifted at the outset, then he wants to make sure that the international community will not have any mechanism through which it can re-impose sanctions in case Iran decides to pull out of the nuclear agreement and go full speed ahead on uranium enrichment.
And wait, that’s not all: there is another condition too. After Khamenei had his president and nuclear team add the removal of the arms embargo to the nuclear agreement in the eleventh hour, he is now adding the removal of all sanctions (including the ones linked to Iran’s terrorism and human rights violations) to the already-done nuclear deal.
The intriguing part of all of this is that, on the one hand, Iran did not allow the West to bring any other issue aside from Iran’s nuclear program – not even Tehran’s ballistic program -- to the negotiating table. On the other hand, Iranian leaders obtained numerous concessions which were not related to the nuclear program such as lifting the arms embargo, lifting sanctions related to terrorism and human rights abuses, lifting sanctions against military leaders, etc.
That is why after such a flimsy deal, Iran immediately tested its ballistic missiles in “a clear violation” of the UN Security Council resolution, and sentenced an Iranian-American journalist right after the nuclear agreement was signed. What was Obama’s response to all of this? Hiding his head in the sand.
More fundamentally, Khamenei is positioning himself in a comfortable lifetime stance: being above the law when it comes to any matter, including the nuclear deal. This allows him the freedom to enact new rules, breach or bypass them at will.
As I mentioned few months ago, Khamenei was not going to approve or disapprove the nuclear deal publicly for two major reasons. First of all, he does not desire to hold responsibility or accountability for the outcome of the nuclear deal. Secondly, he would like to have the luxury of pulling out of the nuclear deal at any time he wishes (preferably after economic sanctions are fully lifted).
But there is another reason. Khamenei was aiming to obtain more concessions after the nuclear deal is signed and after President Rouhani and his nuclear team have already received numerous concessions during the nuclear talks.
Khamenei knows that Obama is in a position of surrender, and President Obama has no option other than to continue giving in to the Supreme Leader’s demands while intentionally not addressing the real problems until he leaves the White House and delegates the issue to the next US president.
Khamenei will continue to milk President Obama by getting more concessions even after the nuclear deal has been ratified. The fact is that Khamenei recognizes Obama’s desperate position and determination not to show failure after years of nuclear talks and waste of political capital. He knows Obama is attempting to disguise his surrender as a diplomatic achievement through the signing of the nuclear deal. So, he manipulates and exploits the US. Khamenei also will continue to position himself above the law, including the law of the nuclear deal, so he can bypass the deal at anytime.
When a crucial global deal such as a nuclear deal turns out to be a worthless one, the consequences and repercussions will be severe and long-term, giving a bunch of clerics the right to feel powerful enough to toy with a superpower such as the US.
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh an Iranian-American political scientist and scholar, is president of the International American Council and serves on the board of the Harvard International Review at Harvard University. Rafizadeh is also a former senior fellow at the Nonviolence International Organization based in Washington, DC and is a member of the Gulf Project at Columbia University. He can be reached at Dr.Rafizadeh@post.harvard.edu. Follow Rafizadeh at @majidrafizadeh.
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