In the vast reams of news reports currently focusing on the new president of Iran and that country’s supposed nuclear ambitions; it is possible to discern a potential shift in its relationship with the West. That is certainly what Iran desires, and certainly, it would be pleasant to envisage a burgeoning positive relationship with the West that would exclude the possibility of war. A number of European governments and the White House have, within a short time of the election of Hasan Rowhani as Iran’s new president, proven themselves extraordinarily eager for negotiations concerning Iran’s nuclear weapons program. Teheran has long insisted that its uranium enrichment project is purely for medical and civilian purposes, and cites the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, which permits nations to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes. A number of governments, such as Israel, are sceptical of these claims, and have sought to limit Iran’s nuclear program.
Iran, however, has insisted that it will never renounce its nuclear rights. Reza Najafi, the new Iranian envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency, has unequivocally stated that Iran has an ‘inalienable right’ to nuclear power. However, he took a conciliatory approach, asserting, ‘Tehran is willing to cooperate with the UN nuclear agency to find ways to overcome existing issues once and for all.’ This is despite the fact that over the past decade, Teheran has refused to allow limits on its uranium enrichment, or to allow inspection of its nuclear facilities by the IAEA.
The West has tried a number of tactics to stop Iran’s nuclear program. During his eight-year tenure as Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad took a confrontational approach to the West’s allegations of nuclear weapons building, refusing inspections by the IAEA, which resulted in crippling sanctions. With high unemployment, inflation, and the prospect of necessary food rationing, Rowhani is under pressure to ensure the lifting of sanctions.
Now however, the deal on Syria between America and Russia, coupled with the supposedly moderate approach of the new Iranian president, presents a shift in international relations. When Rowhani met Russian president Putin at a security summit held in Kyrgzystan, Putin told Rowhani in a televised interview, ‘We know how much in international affairs is revolving around the Iranian nuclear problem, but we in Russia know something else, too: that Iran is our neighbour, a good neighbour.’ Putin expanded, ‘We have always had a large amount of cooperation, we have it now and most likely we will do in the future.’ Leaks from diplomatic sources concern the renewal of a contract through which Russia will supply Iran with sophisticated air missile defence systems, and aid the building of another nuclear reactor at the Bushehr nuclear power plant in Iran. Although officially denied by Russia, the strengthening of the relationship between Russia and Iran poses troubling possibilities.
In the West’s enthusiasm to rush to the negotiating table with Iran, it has taken the supposed moderate approach of the new president at face value. It is incredible to believe that the West is ignoring that the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps hold the real power in Iran, making the key decisions, and Rowhani has been chosen as president for his soft spoken appeal. The West wants to believe that Iran is serious about negotiating for good relations.
Yet Iran has stated itself that it has no intention of reneging on its nuclear rights. Not only that; in its eagerness to meet with Iran, Western diplomats have proven themselves willing to ignore Rowhani’s past and his own admissions. Rowhani’s devotion to Iran’s cause is on record. For sixteen years he led Iran’s National Security Council, and during 2003-2005, he acted as Tehran’s key negotiator on nuclear proliferation. During his time in power, Iran’s nuclear program continued to progress, despite the negotiations with the West that were held during this time. As Rowhani said himself, in a videotaped interview that was recorded prior to the election, he intentionally deceived the West on Iran’s nuclear program. In the interview, he states, ‘We wanted to complete all of these (nuclear programs).’ One might suggest that the West should take note.
Yet political reality does not at present appear to be a priority for the US and European governments, so keen are they to believe Rowhani’s promises. It is highly unlikely that Teheran has suddenly realized that it no longer desires nuclear weapons in this volatile region, where its stated enemy Israel, which it refuses to recognise and refers to as ‘the Zionist entity’, is believed to possess them. In this matter, Israel’s scepticism appears to be well founded. The growing alliance between Syria and Russia, the fooling of the West, and the approaching success of Iran’s nuclear program together herald a worrying outcome for the West. Rowhani is no moderate; for years he persisted in empty negotiations with the West. The Iranians have no intention of limiting their nuclear ambitions.
The question is; why does the West so blithely believe them?
Written By: Alexandra Singer