Up until now, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who initiated unprecedented diplomacy with the U.S., has spoken very positively about the negotiations with Western powers. That has apparently changed, with French media reporting the reformist president saying he is “not optimistic.”
“The government is not optimistic about the Westerners and the current negotiations,” Rouhani was quoted as saying.
“But it does not mean that we should not have hope for removing the problems,” he said referring to international sanctions hurting Iran’s ailing economy.
The fact that the Israel lobby has continued to aggressively push for additional sanctions, and that Congress is just about ready to pull that trigger, might have something to do with Rouhani’s sagging confidence. Republican politicians and right-wing commentators are writing Op-Eds dismissing negotiations as a waste of time and urging the United States to continue with sanctions and even to just cut the bull and bomb Iran. These are not encouraging signals.
During the last round of negotiations, Iran was reported to have made considerable concessions in its proposed deal. These included “a freeze on production of 20% enriched uranium” and “a pledge to convert its stockpile to fuel rods,” in addition to “full monitoring of the underground enrichment plant at Fordow,” and “ratification of the Additional Protocol,” measures which have long been demanded by hardliners in Washington.
In response, the U.S.’s top Iranian negotiator Wendy Sherman went on Israeli television and explained that the expected U.S. response to this Iranian proposal was to “offer very limited, temporary, reversible sanctions relief, but keep in place the fundamental architecture of the oil and banking sanctions” to use as leverage for further Iranian capitulation down the road.
Again, it’s easy to see why Rouhani is turning pessimistic.
Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett argue today in The Diplomat that an American refusal to recognize Iran’s nuclear rights under the NPT and to lift sanctions in return for Iranian concessions will result in the collapse of negotiations and a net-loss in terms of Washington’s geopolitical interests.
If Obama does not conclude a deal recognizing Iran’s nuclear rights, it will confirm suspicions already held by many Iranian elites—including Ayatollah Khamenei—and in Beijing and Moscow about America’s real agenda vis-à-vis the Islamic Republic. It will become undeniably clear that U.S. opposition to indigenous Iranian enrichment is not motivated by proliferation concerns, but by determination to preserve American hegemony—and Israeli military dominance—in the Middle East. If this is so, why should China, Russia, or rising Asian powers continue trying to help Washington—e.g., by accommodating U.S. demands to limit their own commercial interactions with Iran—obtain an outcome it does not actually want?
Emphasis added. That bolded excerpt is the most important feature of the whole Iran debate. As I’ve written, the U.S. has militarily encircled Iran, threatened military attack, and imposed harsh economic warfare all as punishment for a nuclear weapons program that America’s most informed intelligence agencies say doesn’t exist. Obviously then, the U.S.’s problem with Iran has little to do with nuclear proliferation, but rather with U.S. and Israeli dominance in the Middle East.
Unless that changes, Rouhani’s defeatism may be predictive.