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Iran’s political comedy and U.S. sanctions

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

Published: Updated:

Perhaps if the economic sanctions were not unbearable, Iran would not have been forced to perform a political comedy expressing desire for reconciliation with the West and finding a solution to the nuclear issue.

The effects of economic sanctions are real but they are not enough to force Iran to stop its nuclear program, despite the fact that its oil revenues have dropped to half of what they once were as a result of U.S. pressure, threatening to punish companies dealing with Iran, and Iran’s demand that its petroleum customers pay in non U.S. dollar currency.

The drop in revenues led to a drop in the country’s purchasing power, hence the inability to meet its domestic needs, including the need for refined petroleum products.

The U.S. administration believes that by opening the door to negotiations, it is giving Iran an opportunity to make concessions, taking advantage of Iran’s critical situation. Otherwise, why impose a financial blockade if it won’t be translated into political results?

There is no doubt that negotiations and searching for a peaceful solution is the right step to take if the new Iranian president really wants to end the blockade on his country. Whether he was forced to or whether he wants peace and is ready for a political deal regarding Iran’s nuclear project. Nevertheless, all indications suggest the opposite. Iran is facing a difficult situation and economic hardship, but it is not yet obliged to surrender and accept the required deal. There are no indications that the Iranian economy is in danger of collapsing, or that the country is exposed to bankruptcy. There is no panic inside Iran and the market is not in a situation that would force the government to make a move soon. The problem is not with the sanctions, that are being imposed well and that need more time to create a visible impact. The problem is that economic sanctions alone are not enough, especially as Iran has almost accomplished its nuclear program’s aims. Iran can reach nuclear success before it reaches financial bankruptcy.

Why agree to talk?

As for why Iran has been so generous as to undertake negotiations, the reason is that Iranians believe that U.S. President Barack Obama is in a critical position. Indeed, he has already threatened them with serious action if they continue with their nuclear project. However, personally he does not want to wage a war against them. This is why Iran decided to resort to the carrot and stick approach with the White House, hoping that the next two years will pass before Obama asks his generals to destroy Iran’s facilities.

If Iran does not feel that the threats are serious, it will keep on initiating political and military hostilities

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

This is similar to what the Russian stance regarding the chemical weapons in Syria. A CNN journalist asked the Russian ambassador to the United Nations if the initiative to eliminate the chemical weapons was a plan to save their ally Bashar al-Assad from the U.S. military strike. He replied saying that it may be an initiative to save the American president from the critical situation he was facing. He meant that Obama does not want to launch a strike on Syria, and thus the initiative serves the interests of President Obama more than President Assad. Whatever the truth was, the delay in taking a decisive resolution is worsening the situation.

If Iran does not feel that the threats are serious, it will keep on initiating political and military hostilities. This is not an academic theory; the history of Iran reveals a long series of military activities from the Middle East to Australia, Argentina and Central Africa. Is it possible for Iran, which is on the verge of possessing the ability to manufacture nuclear weapons, to give up its hostile policy? It is not logical that Iran decides to change this policy simply because there is a new president. This president was actually the head of Iran’s intelligence community at the time of the aforementioned attacks!

This article was first published in al-Sharq al-Awsat on Oct. 25, 2013.

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Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.