By Iran Review
By Abbas Maleki
In the early hours of Sunday morning (November 24, 2013), the Islamic Republic of Iran and the six permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany, reached a historical agreement on Iran’s nuclear energy program. The agreement pertained to an international case, which for more than 10 years, had been used as a ground to impose a variety of sanctions and restrictive measures against the Iranian people and government, on the one hand, while on the other hand, had been the main topic of frequent sessions of unilateral, multilateral and international negotiations and discussions. The text of the agreement has considered certain responsibilities for Iran in return for which, it has also obligated the member states of the P5+1 group of world powers to take certain measures. There are a few noteworthy points about this agreement which are enumerated below:
1. Any agreement reached at any level is, undoubtedly, in need of “gives and takes.” In other words, to reach an agreement, both sides to that agreement should take steps toward each other. To put it more simply, any form of sustainable agreement should necessarily reduce the distance between two rival parties in the sense that they will have to distance from their past, divisive positions. Of course, all parties to a negotiation process are aware and careful that discarding the past positions should by no means amount to ignoring the mission, assignments, goals and strategies that set the direction for their respective country. Any change in policies and operational strategies is a kind of resilience without which the possibility for an agreement would be low. Therefore, if the Iranian nuclear negotiating team has actually made changes to some of its past policies, it has been meant to facilitate an agreement and the other parties to nuclear negotiations are sure to have done the same. Resilience in such negotiations is the most basic principle in any kind of multilateral talks. Therefore, it seems that using the algebraic sum of the points that Iran has scored through nuclear talks with those of the other parties, would not be a good means to be used in the world of politics to weigh the benefits of the nuclear agreement for either of the two sides.
2. It is a good thing to discuss both the negative and positive points related to the recent nuclear deal in Geneva. However, any analysis of the nuclear deal should take into account that such an agreement will change Iran’s course from the path to war to a new path which will lead to development and economic prosperity. It goes without saying that the worst situation for Iran is to fall into the trap laid for it by the extremist groups in the United States and Israel. Such groups believed that giving more time to Iran was the worst scenario which prevented them from meeting their interests. I believe that if Iran was able to defer to the future the war threats that are posed to it by warmongering Western and Israeli groups, it would reach a spot where no other force in the world would be able to threaten the Islamic Republic with a military strike. Such a state of comprehensive deterrence comes not trough building the nuclear bomb, but through putting Iran’s potential power into force. The main sources of Iran’s potential power include the abundant energy resources in the country, unique geopolitical position in the region and having borders with a great number of neighboring countries, existence of unparalleled human resources in the country, and a political system which urges more participation of the Iranian people in all political affairs. The combination of these four important components of power enables Iran to move toward all-out and sustainable development. As a result, the power of a future Iran will not only be sufficient to protect the country, but will also pave the way for the country to make plans for increasing its influence in other regional societies through soft power means.
3. One of the most famous slogans, which the Iranian people shouted during their Islamic Revolution in 1971, has been put on the entrance of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and reads: “Neither West, nor East,
the Islamic Republic.” To protect the spirit of this slogan in reality calls for hefty costs, both material and spiritual. The fact that the politicians from certain Western countries are still emphasizing on the need to deprive Iran from part of its inalienable rights or postpone the lifting of sanctions against the Islamic Republic of Iran even following the recent agreement in Geneva, should not be a cause of desperation for Iranians. These are just part of the costs that a country has to pay in order to remain independent of big powers. The recent nuclear agreement in Geneva is just part of the achievements of Iran. the Iranians have already paid a high price to maintain their independence including by offering thousands of martyrs both before and after the Islamic Revolution; through sacrifices that people made during the [Iraqi] imposed war on Iran; as well as through hefty material and spiritual costs that the nation has suffered as a result of the unjust sanctions imposed on the country by the big world powers in recent years. From the viewpoint of international relations, policies prevalent among the nations, as well as the principles of multilateralism and realism, the recent agreement over Iran’s nuclear energy program is the most important achievement for an independent nation which is not helped by the political mafia and famous cartels that control the political relations at global level. It has been made possible through indefatigable efforts made by seasoned Iranian diplomats who are well versed about the subtleties of multilateral diplomatic deals.
4. We must keep our eyes on the future. Iran should abide by the commitments it has accepted as per the recent agreement. [Iranian officials] should not be dismayed by political positions taken and remarks made by certain officials of other countries even if they are against the very spirit of the agreement. Every political official in any country is faced with their own limitations. Therefore, saving the face of the opposite parties should be considered as part of the Iranians’ hospitality tradition. It takes long and serious negotiations before the relations between Iran and the United States can be normalized. This article is not meant to elaborate what a profound effect the normalization of ties between these two countries will have on the entire array of global politics. Attention to the reactions shown to Iran nuclear deal by Israel and Saudi Arabia will prove the important impact that direct interaction between Iran and the United States will have on the rearrangement of political players in the Middle East region, in particular, and West Asia, in general.
5. I believe that Iran’s foreign policy apparatus should return to its past discourse of “regionalism.” Iran is currently suffering from some form of strategic solitude in the world. I don’t exactly know whether this is a strength or a weakness, but whatever it is, no other country is similar to us, nor we are like any other political unit in the world. Without a doubt, if there are countries in the world which are close to us in terms of values, culture, politics and social indices, they are our neighboring countries and other regional states. A good neighbor is more of a blessing than a good house. I propose that our foreign policy apparatus should do its utmost to promote our relations with such regional countries as Saudi Arabia and other littoral states of the Persian Gulf. In view of the recent remarks made by Waleed bin Talal (a member of Saudi royal family), I believe that the reaction that Saudi Arabia showed as Iran’s negotiations with the P5+1 group of world powers were going on in Geneva, was just a natural reaction to a profound strategic change in the region. Riyadh should be made to understand that Iran does not pose any threat to the region countries.
6. Most important of all is the need for us to roll up our sleeves, identify the strengths and weaknesses in our society, and find solutions to do away with the existing shortcomings. In reality, a great part of the problems with which the country is currently grappling in the fields of economy, technology, society, and domestic politics, has nothing to do with big powers and needs domestic remedies. We need to boost productivity and output of economic activities in our country and increase the effectiveness of major economic and technical entities of Iran. We also have to elevate the public culture and inform the people of their citizenship rights. We must also think about finding better means to save on and make good advantage of domestic natural resources, food products and energy carriers. We can engage in a wide range of cultural and artistic activities. Such mechanisms need more thinking on the part of our elites in addition to more cooperation from all social strata in order to materialize.
7. Finally, we need to define a new project for the improvement and redefinition of Iran’s image at international level. During the past years, the mental image that people in other parts of the world have held of Iran has been badly tarnished and diabolical. We need a correct program or plan to show a new image of Iran, of the country’s cultural heritage, and the social values of Iranians to people in other countries. This should be done at three different levels of the government, media, and the civil society and this is really a hard row to hoe.
Abbas Maleki, Professor of Energy Policy at Sharif University of Technology, Tehran