Iranians, with light in hand, look after Obama
Obama was the one who offered an olive branch to Iran, one which resulted in the Iranian nuclear deal
A year ago, the foreign ministers of Iran and the United States engaged in seemingly friendly relations, sparking speculation that ties between the two countries could warm in the wake of the nuclear deal.
This came after almost four decades of animosity and bitter relations between the two nations that not only saw Iran suffer but also impacted regional and international diplomacy.
When the founder of the Islamic Republic Ayatollah Khomeini died there was still no improvement in relations and under Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s leadership mixed signals were indicative of internal conflicts of interests.
The hostility reached a level of possible military confrontation over Iran’s controversial nuclear program back in 2012-13. Then a page turned to the most friendly time since the revolution when Hassan Rowhani was elected president in 2013.
Obama offered an olive branch to Iran, one which resulted in the Iranian nuclear deal. However, even if particular presidents seek to restore relations with the US, Iranian politics are much more complicated.
The cold wind of change with the new administration in Washington is chilling and reminds me of the time when George W. Bush called Iran a part of the “Axis of Evil” along with North Korea and IraqCamelia Entekhabi-Fard
A beautiful description of post-revolution Iran was made by the former US Ambassador to Afghanistan and Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad who talked about the two faces of Iran.
“One Iran is the Iran of Mohammad Javad Zarif who was negotiating with us and the other Iran is the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) who have a mission to destroy what the government has built,” Khalilzad said that in his book “The Envoy: From Kabul to the White House.”
The softer Iran
But during the Iranian nuclear talks, the softer Iran represented by the government gained traction over the hard Iran represented by IRGC. Their success at reaching the nuclear agreement gave them an incredible opportunity to reduce tension with the US but, unfortunately, tension in Syria and across the Middle East caught Zarif and Rowhani off-guard.
Iran has a nuclear deal which protects its right to enrich low-grade uranium and allows them to enter the international market. However, what they missed out on was the opportunity to improve their image. Hostile and frowning, Iranian diplomats didn’t miss a chance to label everyone their enemy. It is hard to say if even Rowhani can mend ties with the next US administration to the level he had with Obama.
It looks like the good times between Iran and the US is coming to an end. The era of phone calls between Secretary John Kerry and Mohammad Javad Zarif, shared meals at Iranian restaurants in Montreux and Nowrouz tables at the White House is coming to an end.
The Iran of the IRGC didn’t seize upon President Obama’s generosity and extraordinary softness toward the Islamic Republic. The cold wind of change with the new administration in Washington is chilling and reminds me of the time when George W. Bush called Iran a part of the “Axis of Evil” along with North Korea and Iraq.
Of course, the situation and circumstances wouldn’t be as bad as the early 2000s but will never be as good as during Obama’s presidency.
“It will be a day that us, with light in hand, look after Obama and Kerry,” prominent Iranian scholar Sadeq Ziba Kalam said to Nasim online to express his concern over Donald Trump’s presidency.
Camelia Entekhabi-Fard is a journalist, news commentator and writer who grew up during the Iranian Revolution and wrote for leading reformist newspapers. She is also the author of Camelia: Save Yourself by Telling the Truth - A Memoir of Iran. She lives in New York City and Dubai. She can be found on Twitter: @CameliaFard