Zarif’s Marginal Move on Red Lines in Iranian Foreign Policy

After two years of President Rouhani’s terms in office, Dr. Zarif managed to take essential and effective steps in the realm of Iran’s diplomacy and it was through logical negotiations based on achieving a certain goal that he could drive the case forward. The change was so substantial that Ahmadinejad’s negotiating team would occasionally wonder if he has personal ulterior motives in the talks to accomplish; a trend that had in the past caused the discussions to grow fruitless gradually.

In the previous series of talks, the chief Iranian negotiator, Saeed Jalili tried to make use of his personal interpretation of the pillars of the Islamic Revolution of Iran and put them on a beyond-diplomacy strategy so that he can suggest a negotiation procedure that respected religious administration, by doing so, he sought to bring the nuclear talks to fruition. That, however, had turned into a cloudy process that lessened hopes to a bare minimum for a nuclear deal between Iran and the world powers to come to fruition.

Once Hassan Rouhani took the office, Zarif, as a dynamic, technocratic diplomat, took the wheels and stepped onto the nuclear talk field, but unlike his predecessor negotiator, made every effort possible to move ahead using common diplomatic etiquette and usual international trends in the talks. This way, he could first remove the tension that had lingered for long in talks and the team, and as a next step, drive the talks to a point, which later became a brand new source of conflict for the Conservatives to grind on.

Zarif well knew that according to the ongoing diplomatic trends, he would have to sit at the same table as his American opposite number does, and to avoid the interceptions of talks by Israeli security services and those of other countries, he had to walk close to John Kerry, which, he was aware since the early beginning that would inflict verbal attacks.

Although Rouhani strives to prevent himself from riding into topics of the sort, we should note that he is one of the most prominent security figures in Iran who for years chaired the Supreme National Security Council of Iran and well knows how to take pressures off his Foreign Minister now that the new era is bound to begin. Nonetheless, as seasons gave places to one another, criticisms increased on the performance of the nuclear team over the matter of the JCPOA. The objectors believe that in the case of implementation of the JCPOA, the sanctions will stay still and the Iranian Parliament should by no means approve of it. To nail down the aim, the Conservatives have asked their followers to stage sittings in front of the Parliament and increment pressures on Rouhani’s proponents in the Majlis, for that gives them more edge to more powerfully act against the JCPOA.

While the odds were already playing nasty on the Conservative side, Mohammad Javad Zarif’s handshake with the US President on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session created a heated atmosphere for them to hit the JCPOA as hard as they wish for. Despite the fact that a simple handshake could be a normality for every political and diplomatic figure, it is not in Iran where the US President is called “Satan” and his portrayal is sometimes drawn on the walls in Tehran hand in hand with the murderer of Imam Husain, the third Shia Imam. All that could vouch for a different interpretation.

Objections and oppositions against Zarif’s handshake with Obama are so highlighted that a Conservative lawmaker took the open floor and said, “As soon as hundreds of Iranian hajjis embraced death as a result of the Saudis’ crime, Zarif incidentally embraced Obama! Mr. Zarif has bitten much more than he can ever chew!”

Hamid Rasaei, another Conservative lawmaker, raced at Zarif’s handshake with Obama shouting, “۲ years ago, Mr. Rouhani had an accidental phone talk with Obama! Last year, they told us Zarif had an incidental half-hour walk with the American FM, John Kerry. This year, they are telling us that Mr. Zarif ran into the US President, Obama and shook hands. Next year they will probably tell us they accidentally hugged and kissed each other on the cheek!!!”

On a step-by-step trend, the Conservatives who oppose the JCPOA are trying allude Zarif’s behavior when facing Obama to the JCPOA in a way that they can win scores against the Rouhani Administration or force it to fail the nuclear case. As a verification to that call, we can refer to the Chief of the JCPOA Commission, Alireza Zakani who stated, “What Mr. Zarif did in New York cannot be seen but in two ways: either he is deliberately trying to normalize ties with the US which is considered to be a backslide against the principles of the Revolution, or he is incapable of anticipating the enemy’s next move and cannot take proper measures which against the diplomatic wisdom. Mr. Zarif’s handshake with Obama is a clear sign of deliberately or idiotically laying the groundwork for the enemy’s political penetration into the atmosphere of the country. In the post-JCPOA time, this is an unforgivable mistake and is so unfortunate for us that our foreign minister,  should have been on the front line in fighting the arrogance that exists in the world, is the one who overlooks a redline and shake the Satan’s hand.” These claims on their own are indicative enough of how the Conservatives inside and outside of the parliament are after marring Zarif’s image. The fierceness went so far that some called him “traitor” and accused him of making an oversight on the redlines.

Now we must wait and see what trick Rouhani will bring out of the hat to save Zarif from the Conservatives’ verbal undershooting. Needless to say, Rouhani is fully cautious about the Iranian redlines and has served for years as one of the most significant security figures of Iran, which means he well knows how the mental conflicts are run by the Conservatives. Knowing all that, he uses silence and patience while facing them as means to, in addition to taking certain stances against Saudi Arabia and the death toll of Iranian pilgrims, tranquilize the atmosphere. That we should wait and see until not long later.


A Vanquishing Battle between Rouhani’s and Ahmadinejad’s Nuclear Teams in Parliament

Even though the anti-JCPOA republicans failed in the Senate, the commission the Iranian parliament appointed to studying the JCPOA continues what it started. Yet unlike the non-stop coverage American media provided of the Congress debates, live or other, the IRIB delivered a delayed report with scenes occasionally trimmed. However, even such a procedure could not stop the commission from sinking into side issues and appearing attractive to the audiences.

Last week, the way Abbas Araghchi, the Deputy FM and a senior nuclear negotiator, was confronted in the commission was so surprisingly controversial that it ended with provoking the negotiator to react.

At a different point, the commission invited Ahmadinejad’s chief negotiator, Saeed Jalili and the then AEOI chief, Fereydoun Abbasi which added much to the wrangling. In his words, Saeed Jalili concluded that the JCPOA bears no special fruit for Iran and Iran has overlooked over 100 absolute rights it should have preserved. He also claimed in the recent agreement, the regime is obviously belittled and Iran has given in to abnormal terms. Jalili also went on to say Zarif’s team took the wheel while the other side was already in favor of lifting the sanctions and recognizing Iran’s right of enrichment.

The chief of the analysts’ team in the nuclear talks, Hamid Baeidinejad reacted to the claims of Ahmadinejad’s chief negotiator and rejected his words about the other side consenting to call off sanctions and give Iran the right to enrich uranium prior to the 2013 Presidential election underlining, “In past rounds, the two sides had not even managed to achieve a pre-negotiation phase, let alone full negotiation now.”

Saeed Jalili claimed the nuclear talks were coming to fruition, whereas the former US nuclear negotiator, Robert J. Einhorn told an Iranian magazine that in most of the times Saeed Jalili was talking, they learned a great deal about Iran’s history and his priorities, but much less progress was made in the real subject. But that did not end the story and will probably not be. The JCPOA commission talks have become opportunities for confrontations and disclosures of the untold yet. Recently, the AEOI chief now and Ahmadinejad’s FM, Ali Akbar Salehi took part in the discussions of the commission to answer a series of related questions, although most of his time was spent on replying to Jalili and Abbasi’s claims. Salehi rejected Jalili’s statement about what Iran earned in the Vienna agreement is not sufficient and underscored, “The ideal scenario would be that we had 20% enrichment right with Arak’s heavy water being there, and they would have apologized to us and lifted the sanctions!”

In response to Jalili’s claim on having won the enrichment right in his times, Salehi said, “If it was so, you would have signed the document and finished up the whole thing.” He further pointed to the assumption that “One day, someone may be brave enough to restore the Arak reactor to its original state and take his family to go live there! Then what? Is that bravery? They want to endanger the lives of 80 million people just to prove to others that they are brave! Safety in nuclear programs differ from that in car manufacturing!”

On Jalili’s statement about the other side having recognized Iran’s right of enrichment earlier, Salehi clarified, “They did not come to terms with Iran’s enrichment right in Almaty or Istanbul, at all. There is no document to certify that claim. If they believe P5+1 had consented to Iran’s right of enrichment, then please give us the documents. The only thing P5+1 mentioned was to recognize the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear programs, which was conditional.”

The discussions proceeded and criticisms against the performance of the JCPOA commission heated up, and a Reformist lawmaker, Masoud Pezeshkian added to them saying, “A number of the members are putting their personal preferences and tastes before justice and fairness and that contradicts the impartial manner we sought. A number of my colleagues asked Mr. Salehi a few questions which they didn’t allow him to respond to, whereas when Mr. Jalili was present, he was the only one who spoke and they all listened to and approved of him. My understanding is that many have already concluded about the ongoing discussion and these sessions are aimed at collecting the needed data for a final vote.”

Stressing Jalili’s statement about the JCPOA overlooking 100 rights of Iran, Pezeshkian added, “We only pursued two rights which we obtained. First an international warrant for our nuclear activities, and second keeping the heavy water which is preserved.”

As days pass by, with the Iranian FM, Mohammad Javad Zarif and the Minister of Defense, more hectic days are predicted to be witnessed, for the parliamentary election is arriving any days now, and the perusal of the JCPOA has become a heated topic and every party is trying to score a ball in that area to its own advantage. The Conservatives do not like the deal to become implemented and see it a threat to the regime and Rouhani’s proponents want to step closer to the West once it is executed in full.


Interior Minister and a Story of Dirty Political Money

As last year began to come to an end, Iran’s Interior Minister, Rahmani Fazli mentioned in a meeting with the DEA police that as strong as the cash flow of smugglers in the country is, they become so powerful that they would be able to manipulate politics, “We should note that there is no doubt that once dirty money comes from drug smuggling, it can easily penetrate a country’s politics, elections and power balance, and to stay clear of what is called ‘corruption’, ultimate efforts should be made to pre-emptively break the entrance of such material into the foresaid areas.”

The comments later provoked wide ranges of reactions and that is how the Iranian politician and President Rouhani’s senior adviser, Akbar Torkan called the New Year the year of disclosure. He also stressed the importance of battling dirty money and ruled out silence before such a misconduct.

As revealing facts about the dirty money which could run into the veins of the upcoming parliamentary election soared, Rouhani’s Minister of Justice, Mostafa Pourmohammadi in an interview with the IRIB Channel 2 underlined that there is a greater danger of the eruption of dirty moneys as the focal points of power and wealth are coming close together. And just as expected, as the words were out, colorful reactions started to pour out from every corner.

Those critical of the government asked for a public offering of the documents which could prove what the Interior Minister claimed, and as the pressures increased, whichever media covering the Minister’s speech became targets for polemics and were called “Chain Media Corrupted by Dirty Money.”

The intensified pressures eventually brought the Interior Minister to the Parliament on April 26, 2015 to report what he has up his sleeve. But the Minister acted in contrast and apologized to the MPs for the issue of dirty money and insisted that his words in this regard have been distorted. However, he released a series of statistics about some economic corruptions, including the illegal import of 27 thousand cars in the name of helping the poor; a claim which was later rejected by the head of the aforementioned, Parviz Fattah. Fattah used to be Ahmadinejad’s Minister of Energy. He sarcastically addressed the Minister’s apology stating, “The Minister has habitually apologized for his words which dated back to 2 months ago. Is he going to apologize to me, too, in the Parliament?”

The Minister’s words and his retreat of and from the topic of dirty money have caused different political parties to go critical of him. The Conservatives accuse the government of propagandistic uses of the politics and the Reformists call it a non-strategic back-out of stances before the Conservatives. They, however, do not think of the Minister’s reaction as unexpected, for he shares the same political offshoot as Ali Larijani, the Speaker of the Parliament. All in all, given the upcoming parliamentary election and expected intense electoral races, we should await torrents of surprising and startling comments to rise up to the surface.


Iran in Blazing Row between the Congress and the White House

obama-iran-congressThe recent challenge between the White House and the Congress over the letter written and signed by 47 US Republican Senators addressing the notion that every probable nuclear agreement shall remain intact only within the terms of the current administration has brought many to ask which one of these power wings owns more power in the US and whether or not would the White House eventually make a decision alone about the nuclear agreement with Iran.

In accordance with the US constitution, the most supreme institution in this country to call the rules is the Congress. Before that, American lawmakers would more than anything pay attention to the Legislative Power in the country. That’s how the first US government, headed by George Washington, had only three ministers by its side. After the WWII, however, the Executive Power has managed to gain more strength and that has put the Congress as a second priority over time, esp. when it’s talk of foreign policy and international relations.

The Constitution, nonetheless, still dictates that any topic related to foreign deals should be signed by the Senate. Some might beg to differ every now and then, for there are serious disagreements within the bodies of the Executive and Legislative Powers in the US. That is why on the one hand, the Congress emphasizes whatever talked about between the US and other countries, parties, or other legal entities should be confirmed and verified by the Congress. On the other hand, the US government insists that only international agreements be verified by the Congress. The government also believes not just the probable nuclear agreement with Iran, but also not any of other similar cases should be voted to positively. The President’s VP, Joe Biden has also stated that a number of cases such as the ceasefire in Vietnam, the nuclear case of Iran, capturing the US embassy in Iran and the deal with Russia to destroy the chemical weapons of Syria went without the confirmation of the Senate and perhaps the future nuclear deal with Iran is one of the sort.

It should be noted, however, that apart from the polemics between the Powers, what is obvious now is the only solution of annulling the sanctions of the Congress is the Congress itself. In other words, the Congress went through a procedure to place the sanctions which should be reversed all the same.

If a probable agreement between Iran and P5+1 goes under pen, then as a major UN member, the US, too, should tend to it. The last few weeks have seen a polarized debate about a possible nuclear arms agreement with Iran that has sometimes gone from narrow partisanship to strategic infantilism. Both sides of the Iran debate have focused on a few narrow parameters of the overall agreement as distinguished from the real merits and risks of any proposed agreement.

The issue should be debated on its merits, and they should be examined in terms of all the key parameters, not simply a focus on Iran’s current and present capacity for enrichment. These merits also need to be judged in terms of what any arms control agreement can credibly be expected to accomplish.

Such statements are being made while a variety of opinions are finding their ways out. On Friday, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki appeared on MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell Reports today to address the letter 47 Republican Senators sent to Iranian leaders warning them any deal President Obama makes can be undone by the next president. Psaki said it brings into question whether the Republicans want to see a deal or “whether they want to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.”

Considering what is happening in the US, we should wait and see what the aftermath of the polemics between various power wings in this country can be and where the outcomes would be driven to. According to the information released, the talks between Iran and P5+1 have reached a final point now, but there are various debates on how to lift off the sanctions to the full and also the final mechanism which can help the two sides overcome the remaining obstacles. And only when the marathon comes to an end, the fruit of the talks would come out.