America’s Moment of Truth on Iran (Page 2 of 2)

There are powerful constituencies—e.g., the Israel lobby, neoconservative Republicans, their Democratic “fellow travelers,” and U.S.-based Iran “experts”—that oppose any deal recognizing Iran’s nuclear rights.  They understand that acknowledging these rights would also mean accepting the Islamic Republic as an enduring entity representing legitimate national interests; to do so, America would have to abandon its post-Cold War pretensions to Middle Eastern hegemony.      

Those pretensions have proven dangerously corrosive of America’s ability to accomplish important objectives in the Middle East, and of its global standing.  Just witness the profoundly self-damaging consequences of America’s invasion and occupation of Iraq, and how badly the “global war on terror” has eviscerated the perceived legitimacy of American purposes in the Muslim world. 

But, as the drama over Obama’s call for military action against Syria indicates, America’s political class remains deeply attached to imperial pretense—even as the American public turns away from it.  If Washington could accept the Islamic Republic as a legitimate regional power, it could work with Tehran and others on a political solution to the Syrian conflict.  Instead, Washington reiterates hubristic demands that President Bashar al-Assad step down before a political process starts, and relies on a Saudi-funded “Syrian opposition” increasingly dominated by al-Qa’ida-like extremists.     

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?                    

America can also fail Iran’s test if it is unable to provide comprehensive sanctions relief as part of a negotiated nuclear settlement.  The Obama administration now acknowledges what we have noted for some time—that, beyond transitory executive branch initiatives, lifting or even substantially modifying U.S. sanctions to support diplomatic progress will take congressional action.    

During Obama’s presidency, many U.S. sanctions initially imposed by executive order have been written into law.  These bills—signed, with little heed to their long-term consequences, by Obama himself—have also greatly expanded U.S. secondary sanctions, which threaten to punish third-country entities not for anything they’ve done in America, but for perfectly lawful business they conduct in or with Iran.  The bills contain conditions for removing sanctions stipulating not just the dismantling of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure, but also termination of Tehran’s ties to movements like Hizballah that Washington (foolishly) designates as terrorists and the Islamic Republic’s effective transformation into a secular liberal republic. 

The Obama administration may have managed to delay passage of yet another sanctions bill for a few weeks—but Congressional Democrats no less than congressional Republicans have made publicly clear that they will not relax conditions for removing existing sanctions to help Obama conclude and implement a nuclear deal.  If their obstinacy holds, why should others respect Washington’s high-handed demands for compliance with its extraterritorial (hence, illegal) sanctions against Iran?    

Going into the next round of nuclear talks in Geneva on Thursday, it is unambiguously plain that Obama will have to spend enormous political capital to realign relations with Iran.  America’s future standing as a great power depends significantly on his readiness to do so. 

Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett are authors of Going to Tehran:  Why the United States Must Come to Terms with the Islamic Republic of Iran (New York:  Metropolitan, 2013) and teach international relations, he at Penn State, she at American University.

Comments
31
Rick M
November 24, 2013 at 07:14

The initial premise of this article ruined an otherwise informative and enjoyable column. The hyperbole of America’s standing in the world dependent on Iran, well, perhaps the authors will outgrow such immature pronouncements.

EM
November 11, 2013 at 06:00

"Faced with an Iranian regime, (of which Rouhani is the PR Representative) whose official government policy is “to eliminate the Jewish race from the face of the planet"……….

What a bunch of bull from a hypocritical warmonger.

Iran has the 2nd largest Jewish community in the Middle East, after Israel. They have lived in Iran as equal citizens for over 2500 years, and now-days worship freely in 10s synagogues all over Iran, over 26 of them located in Tehran. The Jews even have an elected representative in the Iranian parliament and are protected by Constitution. Just search for "Jews in Iran" on you-tube to see for yourself.

 

Islam is Blasphemy and Idolatry
November 11, 2013 at 01:49

The iranians believe it is their “Duty”
To exterminate all jews and “unbelievers”

They believe a “hidden iman” will then appear.

With such mad Blasphemers and believers in Lies
That chant “death to America”
Diplomacy is aa Farce

Its like trying to negoiate with Hitler or Bin Laden
It iss a bad Joke
Only answer is to destroy Iran militarily
There is no other way out

EM
November 10, 2013 at 01:40

"………..Thus, the Islamic Republic will not acquiesce to American (and Israeli) demands to suspend enrichment, shut its enrichment site at Fordo, stop a heavy-water reactor under construction at Arak, and ship its current enriched uranium stockpile abroad. "

The funny part is that Iran was willing to concede all of these rights back in 2003 when the nuclear talks had just started. Now, they have developed their nuclear technology past embryonic stages and thus have so many chips in this poker game that the West has no option but to sit and deal with Iran. And, if the deal is not struck now, the negotiations in the future will be even more lob-sided in Iran's favor as they further invest national resources and develop their nuclear technology, making it hard politically for the Iranian leaders to give it up.

So, with our current rising national debt, failed wars one after another, diminishing power on the world stage, and damaged credibility with friends and foes – the time is on Iran's side.  We should snatch this deal on the table before it vanishes, and mend fences with Iran. Otherwise, next time around, there may not be any options on the table. 

 

Wali
November 8, 2013 at 13:11

The extreme theological and political agenda of the governing Iranian-revolution relegious elite is underestimated in this discussion. Their expansionist theological ideology will creat havoc to the region and the world, sooner or later.

It suffice for one to examine the kind of devious and wicked interferences of Iran’s FP throughout the region in the last three decades (e.g., lebanon, Iraq, Yamen, Gulf States, Afghanistan …etc), and ask himself the basic question: is it constructive or destructive. Let alone the suffering it is causing to Iran itself; wasting its resources, militarization its economy, and suppression its people.

One can’t realy understand Iran’s policies without appreciating the controlling role and drive of this extreme and niave ideology. One need not to be fooled by the apparently reconciliatory and pragmatic gestures and tactics of Iran’s relegious leaders. It is wise to be extremely concerned with their guiding ideology and its destructive aims.

Iran and its people deserve better.

A Das
November 7, 2013 at 05:05

This article makes it sound like America is solution looking for a problem. What a nonsensical state of presumption. Fact is the world has little problems that needs American “solution”. America in fact is the “Problem”! The soonerit leaves the scene the better. With the kind of parlours finacial state they are in the sooner they reduce the number of overseas bases, the
the better for them. The writer is on the wrong road to Oz.

Keys
November 6, 2013 at 14:34

What are the US and Israel waiting for then?

 

You might want to re-evaluate the credibility of your sources of information, especially when you are in the US and have been getting your stories from Fox, CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS, the New York Times, Washington Times, Wall St. Journal, and the likes.

keys
November 6, 2013 at 14:25

The US has already made it clear. And Iran's response has been equally clear. Didn't the US send three aircraft carriers to the region a while back? War with Iran is not as easy as you think.

keys
November 6, 2013 at 14:16

The powerful Jewish lobby at work, to the point where the interests of the American people must yield to the interests, or more precisely, ambitions, of Israel and its moneyed supporters in the US.

keys
November 6, 2013 at 14:07

If the US and Israel manage to obtain full consent and cooperation of Russia, China, India and other countries. I don't believe for a second that will happen.

keys
November 6, 2013 at 14:04

I concur mostly. And I have other suspicions – it might not have been a mere lack of adequate education.

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