by Majid Rafizadeh
President Barack Obama appears to be determined to reward the ruling clerics in the Islamic Republic for its “good” behavior by engaging in nuclear negations.
In addition, President Obama has created the narrative that the Islamic Republic is in a weaker position in the nuclear negotiations because the Iranians want sanctions to be lifted against them. But what we witness in reality is that every time that the Islamic Republic rejects any deal that does not comply with its objectives, President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry keep coming back with a new deal to satisfy the Iranian leaders. If the Islamic Republic is the weaker actor in these negotiations, then why are the rules of the nuclear deal not being set based on the p5+1 criteria?
John Kerry has been holding bilateral talks with the Russians and French in order to make sure that a final nuclear deal can be reached between the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) and the Islamic Republic. Additionally, President Barack Obama seems to be determined.
President Obama has also recently written a secret letter — revealed by the Wall Street Journal – to Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, implying the shared regional interests that the Islamic Republic and the United States bear in the Middle East. The letter appears to be asking the Supreme Leader to grasp the opportunity and seal the final nuclear deal, which would result in the lifting of sanctions against the Islamic Republic.
Apparently, President Obama is determined to strike the final nuclear deal and to make friends with enemies in other parts of the world in order to add to his superficial Middle East achievements.
But the crucial question is whether these rewards, and diplomatic leniency towards Iranian politicians and leaders, have resulted in creating or reinforcing good behavior in the Islamic Republic.
Most recently, Ayatollah Khamenei published a nine-step plan that would “eliminate” Israel. In response to the question “What is the most urgent action to take to militarily confront Israel?” the Supreme Leader points out, “The West bank should be armed like Gaza and those who are interested in Palestine’s destiny should take action to arm the people of he West bank, so that the sorrows and grieves (sic) of the Palestinian people will reduce in the light of their powerful hands and the weakness of the Zionist enemy.”
During a speech to university students in Tehran, Khamenei stated, “If God willing, it is eradicated, even better, but while this fraudulent regime is there and not eradicated, what’s the cure? The cure is a strong and armed resistance against this regime. In confronting the Zionist regime, strength needs to be shown from the direction of the Palestinians.”
In addition, Iran’s Supreme Leader took to Twitter to call for the elimination of Israel. Khamenei tweeted a series of vitriolic anti-Israel tweets that called for the elimination of the “barbaric, wolflike & infanticidal regime of Israel.”
Historically speaking, we have repeatedly witnessed that incentives and rewards do not elicit good behavior from the Islamic Republic and the ruling officials. For example, after the disclosure of the clandestine nuclear sites in 2002, not only did the Islamic Republic not pay any price for its covert operation, deception and fraudulence, but it was rewarded with hollow and ongoing negotiations in the international arena for the next decade, which fell right in the interest of the ruling clerics in the Islamic Republic.
After the 2009 disclosure, again the White House decided to use diplomatic avenues, which were followed by a flimsy and face-saving interim nuclear deal and the release of billions of dollars to the Iranian government hoping that it will give up on its nuclear objectives.
After a 2009 disclosure of another nuclear site by IAEA, Ayatollah Ali Khemnei, the senior cadre of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, and the ruling clerics wanted to buy time. They were capable of stalling until now, while installing more centrifuges (currently 19,000) and obtaining high-level enriched uranium. Currently, the objective of the Islamic Republic is to strike a flimsy final and comprehensive nuclear deal that will lead to the lifting of sanctions. Simultaneously, Iran will cheat its way to obtain nuclear weapons because there is no way that IAEA and the international community would be capable of fully monitoring all nuclear activities and its nuances inside the Islamic Republic.
Incentives, removal of sanctions, and more respect are not going to change the behavior of the Islamic Republic. Apparently, rewarding the Islamic Republic has led to the emboldening of the Iranian government, increasing threats from its leaders, and the continuation of dishonesty. If we look at the dishonesty and deceptive strategies that Iranian leaders have utilized with regard to its nuclear program in the last decade, it becomes clear that this government is not going to give up its objectives of obtaining a nuclear bomb, give up exerting its regional hegemonic ambitions, proclaiming to be the leader of the Shiite and Muslims in the World, and give up its opposition to the US and Israel foreign policies in the region. The Islamic Republic is not solely a rational state actor based on the standards of international politics, but also an ideological state founded on the principles of the ruling clerics.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Rafizadeh at @majidrafizadeh.
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