The Scowl Behind the Smile
Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, tweeted a series of tweets last week revealing his sentiments toward the nuclear deal with the West including this: “By the grace of God, the objectives of the US and global arrogant powers against the IRI will face failure sooner or later”.
This candid glimpse at the top of the regime’s food chain, makes us ask a very important questions regarding Iran’s true intentions. Or, to state it more clearly, what does Iran wants from the talks?
What does Tehran want? Basically, power.
- Money = Power: After decades of sanctions lead and implemented by the “arrogant powers”, Iran needs money and cooperating on a nuclear deal seems to be the only way to do so. Even if the sanctions are still in effect, President Hassan Rouhani’s foreign policy and smile diplomacy have led to a long line up of trade delegations and deals that have boosted the economy and justified Rouhani’s election promises. There are hundreds of billions of dollars at stake here and Rouhani knows it – Iran, without sanctions, can perhaps achieve his wish to become one of the top ten economies in the world.
- Friends = Power: After decades of sanctions, Iran found itself politically isolated with only a handful of allies. The inner circle of allies included Syria and Lebanon while an outer circle included mostly NAM countries which were allied through a common animosity to a mutual enemy – the “arrogant powers” of the “West”. Since introducing the smile diplomacy, Tehran’s list of friends gets longer daily, friends who will be expected to support Tehran if and when the nuclear deal falls apart.
- Influence = Power: After decades of limited influence on its neighbors (apart from Syria and Lebanon) Tehran wants to be taken seriously as an important country and a force to be reckoned with in its region and the world. More specifically, Tehran, and specially Khamenei himself, wants to export the Islamic revolution with Iran at its head and introduce a “century of Islam” that will put an end to the rule of the “arrogant powers”.
What is Tehran giving up? Nothing…
In order to achieve the power of money, friends and influence, Tehran will have to give up on absolutely nothing apart from trading scowls for smiles. Tehran’s understanding of the nuclear deal is that its program will continue “as-is”, keeping them a mere six months away from reaching break-out point when it chooses to do so. In the meantime, by the simple fact that the Iranian negotiation teams approach the talks with smiles, they have increased their power enormously.
Yes, Rouhani’s smile diplomacy has proven to be effective. But it should be worthwhile for all of Iran’s new business partners, friends and neighbors, as well as the “arrogant powers”, to listen in on Khamenei once in a while in order to understand that Rouhani’s smile diplomacy does not fit the Supreme Leader well.