US Secretary of State John Kerry (R), former top EU diplomat Catherine Ashton (2nd L), Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (L) and Omani Foreign Minister Yussef bin Alawi (2nd R) pose for a photo in Muscat, November 9, 2014.
US ‘must soften tone’ on Iran
‘US not after win-win nuclear solution’
It seems like a cruel twist of fate that the mid-term US elections should result in a Republican-controlled Congress - only weeks ahead of the November deadline for a nuclear deal between Iran and the P5+1 group of world powers.
With the more hawkish Republican Party now dominant in both the Senate and House of Representatives, it looks certain that we can kiss goodbye to a possible resolution of the nuclear dispute and the lifting of Western sanctions on Iran.
Delegates from the US, Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany are to meet with counterparts from Iran in the coming days to begin the final countdown to sealing an accord on the nuclear standoff - set for November 24 - after a year of negotiations.
This week, US President Barack Obama said that Washington had presented a framework which would allow Iran to achieve its peaceful nuclear energy goals and rescind the punitive sanctions regime that the Western powers have imposed on Tehran.
However, Obama hedged the outcome by saying, "Whether we can actually get a deal done, we'll have to find out over the next three to four weeks."
But given that Obama has just lost control of Congress to a Republican Party that is deeply hostile to any diplomatic solution with Iran, it is extremely improbable that a deal can be struck.
Obama said prior to the mid-term rout of the Democrats that he is prepared to invoke "executive powers" independent of Congress to push through an accord at the P5+1 forum. That Obama will stand up to a boorish Congress for the sake of an Iranian breakthrough is wishful thinking. His track record over two terms in the White House shows that he has no spine for such a face-off.
Already the lame-duck president has been making conciliatory gestures to the Republicans. The Washington Post reports this week that Obama wants to "forge compromises with the newly empowered Republicans."
Besides, over the remaining two years of his presidency, Obama will be more interested in appeasing opponents to salvage his domestic legacy of healthcare reform. He is not going to jeopardize that in a wrangle over the Iranian nuclear issue.
But more ominous is the underlying geopolitics of why Washington engaged in the seeming detente with Iran in the first place. The assumption that the Obama administration genuinely wants to find a resolution with Iran is questionable.
We refer here to Russia's top intelligence official, Nikolay Patrushev, who last month gave an insightful interview to Russian media on the deteriorating relations between Washington and Moscow.
Patrushev, who is head of Russian National Security, said that the "reset" policy that Washington embarked on in 2008-2009 under Obama appeared to offer a diplomatic partnership with Russia. But, he said, the overture transpired to be disingenuous.
"It soon became clear that Washington is not inclined towards real cooperation. It confined itself to mere statements of friendliness and the devising of certain negotiation tracks from which the benefit to Russia, in the end, proved almost zero. After a while even totally non-binding positive dialogues of this kind came to an end and the US attitude towards our country began once again to be reminiscent of Cold War times."
The proof of Washington's underlying intent towards Russia is the current Ukraine crisis and the pretext that provides for slapping on sanctions against Moscow. The true, ugly face of ashington has been revealed because Russian President Vladimir Putin refused to acquiesce to Washington's geopolitical hegemony over the global economy. In recent years, Putin has pushed ahead with strategic partnerships with China and other emerging economies of the BRICS.
The real reason why Washington engaged with Russia under the Obama reset policy was not so much "reset" but to "offset" the development of a multipolar global economy which would hasten the demise of American hegemony and the dominance of the US dollar in particular.
Because Putin has not played ball according to American schemes this has incurred a wrathful response from Washington, which is evinced now in the present Ukraine crisis.
The relevance to Iran is that this was also the geopolitical background for why Washington moved from a policy of overt hostility under the Bush administration to one of apparent engagement under Obama.
As Patrushev noted, "In the context of the growing world financial and economic crisis, major new players in the international arena such as the PRC [People's Republic of China], India, Brazil, and Iran as well as the growing economies of Southeast Asia and South Korea became
increasingly significant factors for the United States. Hence, incidentally, the emergence of new conceptual principles such as the American-Chinese special partnership, the strategic collaboration between the United States and India, the establishment of direct dialogue between Washington and Iran, and so forth."
Thus, the rationale behind Washington's diplomatic engagement with Iran was never really about resolving the decade-old nuclear dispute, but rather it was always about the US reasserting its hegemonic interests over the global economy by trying to forestall Iranian partnerships in alternative spheres of development.
After a year of tortuous negotiations and commendable efforts by Iran to find a resolution, it is perplexing that US negotiators are still pressing Iran for "reassurance on its peaceful nuclear ambitions."
That old chestnut keeps being brought up with mind-numbing tedium, which actually betrays the cynical disinterest in Washington in finding a genuine solution to the nuclear dispute and to bring an end to the sanctions on Iran. As with Russia, sanctions are just a means of political control for Washington.
The Republican-controlled Congress will most likely deliver a hammer blow to the year-long diplomacy with Iran. But that should come as no surprise given Washington's ulterior motives towards Iran.
Nonetheless, the end of the P5+1 charade is a good thing. For it will allow Iran to free up its political energy and to get on with reinforcing new global partnerships.