The Barack Obama administration has begun to conduct secret contacts with Iranian leaders. Obama wants to convince Iran, by using diplomacy, that developing nuclear weapons is unacceptable, both regionally and internationally. Iran’s economy is deteriorating under the weight of stifling sanctions and it is possible that the country, under the rule of leaders who dream of exercising hegemony in the region and intervening everywhere possible, will begin thinking about accepting a suspension of its nuclear military program in exchange for getting the United States to lift sanctions.
However, suspending the Iranian nuclear program does not mean that Iran will not be able to quickly acquire nuclear weapons. A Canadian nuclear scientist told Al-Hayat that if a country can achieve uranium enrichment level of five percent, it has the technology to quickly build a nuclear weapon. Obama is interested in diplomacy, and not a war with Iran. However, the problem is that Iran is interested in wars, and intervening in its neighbors’ affairs, and dominating all of the countries in which it has proxies, from Lebanon to Iraq and Bahrain and the Gulf. American dialogue with Iran, which is being urged by some American media, will be a dialogue of the deaf, since the Iranians only understand the language of force, which they use with their people, just like the Syrian regime. Roger Cohen, the American columnist, asks, “What do we want from Iran? Open up all its nuclear facilities, get rid of 20 percent of its enriched uranium, end all threats to Israel, stop rampant human rights abuses, changed policies on Hamas and Hezbollah, a constructive approach to Syria.
What can we offer? Lift some sanctions, stop a range of covert actions, take regime change off the table, put the right to limited enrichment (up to 5 percent) on the table, and address the regional role of Iran.” Cohen enumerates the American conditions for a successful dialogue with Iran; in reality this involves asking for a change in the type of regime in Tehran, which will be unable to do what the columnist is suggesting. Even during the era of the Shah, Iran’s history has been about hegemony by force in the region. The Khamenei regime is using force to help the Syrian regime, which will fall sooner or later, as it sends weapons and fighters to that country.
This is because Tehran knows that if Syrian President Bashar Assad falls, Iran’s access to its allies in Lebanon will be cut off, while the country will be weakened regionally. Why should Khamenei abandon Hezbollah, its domination of Syria and Iraq and its interference in Lebanon, in exchange for the lifting of sanctions? Khamenei is not affected by sanctions; his people are the ones who are suffering, while the Iranian leadership has enough money and means to help its allies. Creative diplomacy, which Cohen is calling for with Iran, is ineffective with a government that sees no benefits other than by exercising hegemony and interfering in other countries, unconcerned with the interest of its own people. The Iranian leadership, despite its economic and financial difficulties, will not abandon its policy of paying money in Lebanon and Syria, while its policies impoverish the Iranian people. Creative diplomacy, as Cohen is calling for, cannot create a new regime, because Khamenei and his people do not understand the language of diplomacy. But the problem is that the language of war is very dangerous for the region.
The alternative of diplomacy involves taking a hard-line stance on Iran’s actions, to pressure the regime until it collapses, since hope has been lost when it comes to the Tehran leadership. Iran is a big country and its educated people have a long history, but the current regime has impoverished them and gradually distanced them from their historical culture, which has distinguished them. An Israeli strike against Iran will be very dangerous and is not the solution, just as bilateral Iranian-US diplomacy will not solve the problem – on the contrary. A hard-line stance, the isolation of Iran and its weakening in economic terms could have an impact over the long term on a regime that should disappear. Otherwise, establishing creative diplomacy with Iran gives it legitimacy, because it might understand this as American weakness.
(Randa Takieddine is a writer for Dar al-Hayat where this article was published on Nov. 15, 2012)