The different reasons why Americans love Iran
The world admires those who have a clear project and those who work toward and fight for it
The US State Department has denied a report that was published last week by an esteemed international institute. The report stated that there was a secret agreement allowing Iran to quietly work on its nuclear project. Who would believe that? Iran has violated the agreement that was signed last year with major powers. The agreement had stated that Iran would freeze its nuclear program “so that the world would be safer,” as announced by US President Barack Obama. Iran was not subjected to any sanctions although it has launched long-range missiles, violated human rights inside and outside the country’s borders, made the execution of political activists easier than committing an abortion in Texas and sent tens of thousands of men from its militia and Revolutionary Guard beyond its borders. Despite all that, there are still European ministers visiting Iran and businessmen rediscovering Tehran and its antique hotels. The Iranian oil industry regained its power. Tehran is about to open branches of three of its banks in Germany and 400 million dollars in cash was shipped from Washington to confirm the “lifting [of] sanctions” and to release four hostages. The latter was first denied by Washington but later confirmed. This is why we should not believe Washington when it denies that it disregarded the violations of Iran when it exceeded the amount of enriched uranium stipulated in the agreement, as the Institute for Science and International Security (ironically, its English acronym is ISIS) quoted officials involved in the 5+1 negotiations as saying.
So, what is the reason behind this fondness of the US toward Iran and its negligence regarding Iranian activities? What is the reason behind the keenness of the US administration to bring Tehran back into the international community, although Iran has not changed and does not plan to do so?
I think that there are four reasons, all of which fall within Saudi Arabia’s and Sunnis' global concerns (unfortunately it is time to surrender to this kind of talk). When reviewing the policies that helped Iran achieve these successes and simultaneously retain its fundamentalist hostile project, we notice that these same policies criticize Riyadh since September 11 for every issue, small and big.
The four reasons are: First, Iran has a project; secondly it has important bargaining chips; thirdly, Iran and its allies are all united; and lastly, the US has a problem with “the Sunni world.”
The world admires those who have a clear project and those who work toward and fight for it, even if it is an antagonist. This sums up the Western position toward Iran. The West criticizes Iran but still accepted its project and included it in their vision for the region. The West considers the Syrian people’s revolution, which is a clear and undeniable issue, as a mere “Saudi-Iranian conflict” that must be solved by listening to both sides and fulfilling their interests, namely the Iranians who sent tens of thousands of their men to fight in Syria. The Syrians issue, grievance and aspiration for freedom vanished although the majority in Syria wanted the revolution because of their ruler, who is clinging to power, is a dictator who is struggling against Western and American values. They replaced the Syrians’ misery with regional stability and the need to encourage Saudis and Iranians to conduct direct dialogue that would benefit both the parties, in order to reach a peaceful solution in Syria. There are also long articles tackling the Sunni-Shiite conflict and the 1000-year-conflict between the two. Such expressions show clear partiality toward Iran that must be treated as a war criminal in Syria, not a party that should be heard and spoken with.
We need to remind the Americans that our Middle East is not the American west. If we want them to listen to us, we will need a project that is similar to the Iranian projectJamal Khashoggi
For instance, the US has acknowledged Iran’s role in Iraq despite the historical sensitivity between the two and despite being fully aware of the cruelty of popular mobilization and not abiding by any rules of engagement, even American ones. The US also knows about their sectarian practices and violations of the customs of war whenever they enter a Sunni city or village. However, when the US took a deeper look at Iran, it was only able to see the Iranian project. Therefore, the US decided to work on solving this issue. This proves the old rule in the American West: those with weapons have a more powerful alibi. We need to remind the Americans that our Middle East is not the American west. If we want them to listen to us, we will need a project that is similar to the Iranian project.
Negotiating several papers
The Iranians have learnt this tactic from the Israelis who occupy and then negotiate. They build a colony and then negotiate, they negotiate and then sign an agreement, then they again negotiate on the execution of the agreement. Iran is doing the same. It has two cards: the nuclear project and the expansion project. Iran freezes the former to work on the latter, then exploits the second to serve the first. What proves the above-mentioned details is the data that was revealed by Jay Solomon of the Wall Street Journal, claiming that he has heard directly from American and Iranian officials involved in the negotiations in Oman at the time when chemical weapons were used by the Syrian regime against its own people in August 2013. He says that they exchanged letters stating that negotiations could not go further if Obama decided to bomb Iran’s ally! The negotiations regarding the nuclear agreement were a strong card used by the Iranians at the right time to save Bashar al-Assad. So Obama surrendered to the Iranians without taking into consideration the hundreds of thousands of Syrians who would be killed after that. He didn’t even take into consideration the American values that he supposedly commits to.
Consequently, the Iranians can exploit the Syrian card, the Iraqi, Yemeni and Lebanese cards as well as their compromises (or what look like compromises), to get exemptions on their nuclear program. The Institute for Science and International Security report that was mentioned above stated that the nuclear program is still being carried on quietly, all they did was turn some lights off and close some facilities while keeping others operational. When they resume work with all their energy in nine years, and they are not far, they will be fully ready to acquire the bomb and their country will no longer be considered a rejected state. It will have become the economic partner of the United States and Europe and it will be taken into account.
What cards can we use to act like the Iranians?
One voice: When US Secretary of State John Kerry meets his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Zarif in Geneva to discuss Syrian and Iraqi matters then goes on to Baghdad, he will most likely hear the same answers and will compare them with the confidential reports that he got from the CIA in Beirut, Damascus or Sanaa. He will find similarities, if not the exact same opinions, he will like the clarity, even if he does not like the content.
On the other hand, he will start a tour from Riyadh to Abu Dhabi then Doha, Ankara and Amman, where the US is supposed to be in the anti-Iran camp. He will ask them about Syria and Iraq. However, he will certainly not hear identical positions and he may also hear inconsistencies. This is the reason behind the recent rapprochement between the US and Iran.
The solution lies in unifying our positions. The above-mentioned capitals should work in the same direction, at least regarding the issue of dealing with Iran. This is why the “Islamic alliance” that was launched in Riyadh last year spread positivity and optimism in most of the countries concerned with the confrontation. Nevertheless, media coverage in these countries will reveal doubtfulness and accusations that eradicated this optimism.
The last and fourth reason will be debatable. I believe that there is an American allergy toward Sunni Islam. The US was unable to recover after the September 11 attacks. This is obvious in the speeches of presidential candidates, in media coverage and in Congress. The problem of Sunni Islam lies in an outraged community within the Sunnis that is even attacking Islamic society as well as the West. The US politicians insist on mixing between the Sunni majority and the outraged minority; they either do that out of ignorance or intentionally. We can see that in Cologne in Germany, where a number of Syrians are accused of supporting Ahrar al-Sham, a key faction in the ongoing resistance in Syria against Bashar al-Assad. Germany urged researchers to testify that Ahrar al-Sham is a terrorist movement, some of them have already done so! This story is a clear explanation of this negative attitude, which makes the Americans take harsh positions against all Islamic factions in Syria while disregarding the factions of Abbas, Nujaba, Houthis, Afghan mercenaries and Badr and before them Hezbollah. Their terrorist practices do not abide by any law and custom, yet, the US is convinced that they do not pose any threat, even if they shout “death to America” as the Houthis are doing. Kerry will then ask that they be included in the national government as a solution in Yemen!
What is the solution for this? I guess that time will tell. What is more important now is to work on the first three reasons: we should have a clear project, one voice and bargain chips. At that point, the fourth reason will be resolved as we may no longer care about the US’ point of view because only women will cry for their lost love.
This article was first published in al-Hayat on Sept. 10, 2016.
Jamal Khashoggi is a Saudi journalist, columnist, author, and general manager of the upcoming Al Arab News Channel. He previously served as a media aide to Prince Turki al Faisal while he was Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States. Khashoggi has written for various daily and weekly Arab newspapers, including Asharq al-Awsat, al-Majalla and al-Hayat, and was editor-in-chief of the Saudi-based al-Watan. He was a foreign correspondent in Afghanistan, Algeria, Kuwait, Sudan, and other Middle Eastern countries. He is also a political commentator for Saudi-based and international news channels. Twitter: @JKhashoggi