by Waseem Shehzad (News & Analysis, Crescent International Vol. 42, No. 8, Dhu al-Qa'dah, 1434)
The speed with which developments vis-à-vis US-Iran relations occurred in the last week of September has given rise to guarded optimism. There is, however, a long way to go.
Over the last two weeks, there has been a flurry of diplomatic activity about contacts between officials of the Islamic Republic and the US. In an interview with the American TV channel NBC on September 18, President Hassan Rohani of Iran said he had received a congratulatory message after his electoral victory in June from US President Barack Obama. He said Obama had written to congratulate him on his election victory and “some issues of his interest were raised.” He went on, “I responded to that letter, I thanked him and expressed Iran’s viewpoint on the issues raised in his letter and some other issues.”
Without divulging what those issues were, the Iranian president told NBC TV, “From my point of view the tone of the letter was positive and constructive.”
Announcements regarding exchange of letters assumed added significance in view of the September 24 visit of President Rohani to New York where he addressed the UN General Assembly. Iran’s Foreign Minister Dr. Mohammad Javad Zarif was already in New York ahead of the president’s arrival. This is Rohani’s first visit to the UN since being elected president. Zarif is on familiar territory; he was Iran’s ambassador to the UN between 2003 and 2007 and knows many of the players well.
A great deal of speculation has been swirling around about whom President Rohani might meet. What the flurry of activity and chatter in the media indicate is the importance Iran’s head of state enjoys in the world. This springs from the fact that Iran is the only truly Islamic state in the world; it enjoys the support of its people and it pursues a completely independent policy. These qualities make it unique in the comity of nations. Further, it also currently heads the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) although this would not garner as much interest as the fact that Iran alone stands as a completely independent country, especially in the Muslim world.
Since Rohani’s election as president, there has been a perceptible change in the tone of Western rhetoric toward Iran. Whether such rhetoric is sincere is yet to be tested. President Rohani and his cabinet have repeatedly indicated their willingness to resolve the nuclear standoff with the West through negotiations. In fact, the standoff is not the result of any failing on the part of Iran; it is the West, especially the US, where the administration is under severe pressure from the pro-Israel lobby that has frustrated any meaningful dialogue with Iran on the nuclear and other issues.
The Western allegation that Iran is working on a nuclear weapons’ program springs from the demonic minds in Tel Aviv. The Zionists suffer from an acute sense of anxiety even though Israel is the only state in the Muslim East to possess nuclear weapons. Its arsenal is believed to be between 200–400 nuclear weapons. The Zionist regime refuses to sign the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and has also rebuffed repeated requests to open its nuclear facilities to international inspections. Yet it keeps barking about Iran’s non-existent nuclear weapons program.
Ahead of President Rohani’s visit to New York, the Rahbar, Imam Seyyed Ali Khamenei in an address to commanders of the Revolutionary Guards on September 17 said, “We don’t accept nuclear weapons, not for the sake of the US or others, but because of our beliefs, and when we say that no one should have nuclear weapons, certainly we are not after them either.” The Rahbar made clear that he was endorsing President Rohani’s diplomatic moves. He elucidated these with two concepts so as not to leave doubt in anyone’s mind. He described the two concepts as “heroic flexibility” and “champion’s leniency.”
The concept of “heroic flexibility” was explained through the example of a wrestler who sometimes gives way for tactical reasons but never loses sight of his rival. The other concept — “champion’s leniency” — has a much deeper meaning and is derived from early Islamic history when Imam Hasan, older grandson of the noble Messenger (pbuh) relinquished his right to the khilafah in order to avoid bloodshed in the Ummah by showing flexibility toward the enemy, Mu‘awiyah, who had usurped power by force. Champion’s Leniency also happens to be the sub-title of a book the Rahbar translated from Arabic dealing with Imam Hasan’s life.
Having laid the groundwork for dealing with the nuclear issue and to show that the Islamic Republic was completely sincere in its approach, the Rahbar had strengthened President Rohani’s hand. Thus, in his September 18 interview, the president could tell NBC TV that he had full authority to deal with the nuclear file and that he could confirm Iran’s initiative never to develop nuclear weapons.
This has been Iran’s position all along. The Rahbar has repeatedly emphasized this; in fact he even issued a fatwa against nuclear weapons. Such weapons are not part of Iran’s defence doctrine. Even when Iran possessed chemical and biological weapons and it came under repeated attacks from Saddam Husain’s Iraq during the eight-year imposed war, Iran never retaliated in kind. Saddam was armed with these weapons by the West, especially the US, Britain, Germany and France. Iran took the matter to the UN Security Council but for five years (1984–1988), the council did not even once bring itself to declare that Iraq was the guilty party. This would have exposed the criminal parties — the US, Britain, France and Germany — behind these banned weapons.
So what can be expected from President Rohani’s parleys in New York? That would really depend on whether Obama is able to stand up to the Zionist blackmailers in the US and abroad. The illegitimate Zionist entity that thrives as a parasite on the body of the US keeps talking up the alleged “existential threat” from Iran. There is some truth to it but it is not from Iran’s non-existent nuclear weapons. Iran’s real influence resides in its ability to inspire Muslims worldwide to stand up for their rights. This stand has also emboldened the oppressed Palestinian people that have shown great resilience in the face of Zionist brutalities. A similar situation exists with the empowerment of Hizbullah in Lebanon. As a result of Iran’s courageous and principled stand in support of the oppressed people of Lebanon and Palestine, the Zionists have been delivered serious blows. These setbacks have the Zionists deeply worried and they would like to push the US into a direct military confrontation with Islamic Iran. The Zionists also engineered the entire Syria chemical weapons fiasco. It was only deft diplomatic moves by Russia and Iran that prevented war from breaking out and saved America from committing another folly that would have dwarfed the twin disasters of Afghanistan and Iraq.
The US is not in a position to embark on other misadventures that the Zionist cabal pushes it into. There is, however, a body — the military industrial complex — that thrives on perpetual war. Together with the Zionists, they have visited numerous disasters upon the US. The price for such follies has to be borne by ordinary Americans whose earnings have declined over the years. There are nearly 50 million Americans living in poverty. This is a disgrace for a country with the highest Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the world. Even here, the US is now losing out to China, thanks to the illegal wars it launched against Afghanistan and Iraq, bankrupting the US in the process.
Much as the Zionist cabal may want the US to get entangled in another war, this time with Iran, it would not be to Washington’s advantage. As US-Iran discussions on the nuclear file continue, it is important for the US to keep in mind that Iran is entitled to enrich uranium under the NPT. This is Tehran’s fundamental right and the US and its NATO allies cannot rewrite these rules unilaterally.
Iran has repeatedly emphasized that it is not making the bomb. It must be believed. Iran’s leaders may even agree to again open their nuclear facilities to intrusive international inspections as they did before. They may also be willing to cap enrichment but in return they will expect concrete steps from the US, not mere rhetoric or more hostile acts as was the case in the past. If Obama is serious about resolving the nuclear issue, he will find Iran willing. Duplicity will get him nowhere.
He must not forget that Iran is a regional power. It has attained this position through its own efforts and not because of the US. The global situation is changing; the US can no longer get away with what it wants, as has been demonstrated by its bitter experience in Iraq and Afghanistan and as was once again so vividly demonstrated in Syria.
If Obama can muster enough courage to do what is in America’s best interests, he would find Iran a willing partner. If he tries to act with duplicity, he will find himself in a very difficult situation. The ball is in Obama’s court.