Negotiating with Iran

Since the election of President Hassan Rouhani, the Western world has apparently come to believe that a messiah has come to save them from action against Iran.

In fact, the opposite has occurred. What the West has received is a leader who understands that the democracies are tired of war and are looking for any way to forgo the tension and animosity towards Iran. By using liberal overtones he has been able to court the Europeans and Americans into negotiations without preconditions.

This is a dangerous moment for the world. Rouhani is an expert when it comes to stalling for time. A great example of this was when he was Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator with the EU-3 (Britain, France and Germany). Following the negotiations he made the following startling remark: “When we were negotiating with the Europeans in Tehran, we were installing equipment in parts of the facility in Isfahan.” He continued saying that due to his diplomacy, “the world would face a fait accompli.”

Later he stated that, “The day we started the process, there was no such thing as the Isfahan project.” His deputy, Hossein Musavian, expanded on this message: “Thanks to the negotiations with the Europeans we gained another year, in which we completed (the uranium conversion facility) in Isfahan.”

So this is not the first time that Rouhani has led the world into negotiations that only bear fruit for the Iranians, while putting the rest of the world in danger of a nuclear fait accompli. That is why it was so shocking when not only the American Secretary of State met with his Iranian counterpart, but President Obama personally called the Iranian president. Surely, the advisers to both men should have known of the Iranian president’s past.

It is not that talking to one’s enemy is negative, it is that the Iranians have done nothing to deserve this kind of legitimacy. Therefore, instead of calling, President Obama should have publicly asked the Iranian President to make a gesture of good will in order to justify such reciprocal gestures as high level phone calls.

Nevertheless, the American president is correct in his assumptions that negotiations are the best way to tackle the Iranian threat. Given this, what is the best way to approach such negotiations?

It is obvious that the Iranians have a deep history of distrust towards the Western world, starting with the CIA led overthrow of Mohammad Mosaddegh in 1953, to the American backed Iraqi invasion of 1988. It must be made clear to the Iranians that the Western world, led by the Americans, have no interest in overthrowing their regime. Furthermore, if there is a diplomatic outcome to the negotiations, they can enter into bilateral and multilateral agreements on everything, including even security. This is because, theoretically, there is not much that differentiates Saudi Arabia and Iran, and the West has excellent relations with the Saudis.

Once this has been established, the world, led by the Americans, must let the Iranians know that not only will the current sanctions regime not be removed before commencing negotiations, but if the Iranians do not enter into negotiations, or abide by the spirit of negotiations, stricter sanctions will be applied. Simply, the Iranians should know that entering into negotiations is not to remove current sanctions, but will allow them to delay further sanctions which will further cripple their economy.

We should not fear negotiations with Iran, but we should not be led blindly by sweet-sounding words. Words must be met by actions, either by Iran or by the West. It should be left to Iran to decide which direction they want to take.

About the Author
Isaac Moddel is an expert in international relations. He holds a postgraduate degree with distinction in international relations and comes with recommendations from former politicians and diplomats, including former US Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright. He is also a former senior coordinator for the Knesset Forum on International Relations.