Endless Circle 1: Khamenei’s Red Lines
One look at Supreme Leader Khamenei’s red lines for nuclear negotiations is enough to understand that Iran is in no mood to compromise on anything any time soon. All his red lines focus on maintaining Tehran’s nuclear program “as-is” despite the fact that the problem arises from the transgression of numerous red lines set down by the IAEA over the past decade.
Sanctions were put in place due to the fact that Tehran crossed the IAEA’s red lines and it is these sanctions inadvertently brought about the election of Rouhani whose critical goal is to rid Iran of the sanctions. But Khamenei isn’t budging: He wants the sanctions removed and his nuclear program intact.
But in the meantime, he is leading the world around and around in circles, speaking first of “heroic flexibility” and then retreating back to defiance.
It’s like someone caught stealing who wants to plea bargain his way into keeping his freedom and the loot. Or like having a cake, eating it and asking for more.
Endless Circle 2: Crossing IAEA Red Lines
Although Rouhani promised greater transparency and although Iran has stopped, as far as we know, enriching Uranium beyond 5%, parts of Tehran’s nuclear program remain hidden from the eyes of IAEA inspectors and the world.
Iran is still not answering any questions regarding possible military dimensions of its nuclear program and there is still no entry to the Parchin military base which seems to be the focus for military experiments in nuclear devices.
Once again, Tehran goes full circle from transgressing, agreeing to transparency and transgressing once more.
Endless Circle 3: Hardliner vs. Charm Offensive
Supporting Khamenei are a bunch of eager hardliners who want to remind the world that Iran isn’t going to give in promising to increase enrichment if nuclear negotiations falter, that Iran’s missile capabilities are enormous, that no one will cross Khamenei’s red lines etc… Even FM Zarif who adopted Rouhani’s charm campaign knows how to echo Khamenei’s red lines when he suggests that a deal is possible only if the P5+1 would “officially recognize” Tehran’s nuclear program in its entirety.
Hello Mr. Zarif! Skilled negotiators such as yourself and your president should know that Iran will have to give something in order to get something. Perhaps he knows something about the steadfastness of the West we don’t? Or perhaps, this is simply endless-circling diplomacy – Zarif is a wizard at turning hot and cold repetitively, effusing optimism and pessimism in quick succession
Endless Circle 4: Iranian Double Talk
Another form of counter-productive rhetoric that complicates the negotiations is the issue of the effect of sanctions. Rouhani won the election with a promise to free Iran of the sanctions and he seems definitely focused on this goal.
To most people around the world, including Obama himself, the only reason that Iran is even willing to negotiate a deal is the pressure of sanctions on the Iranian economy. And it’s working: Lo and behold, the few sanction reliefs have already kick jumped Iran’s economy.
But somehow, some leaders including Zarif himself continue to belittle the effects of sanctions (“sanctions have utterly failed“) while striving to make them disappear at the same time…once again,endless circles that give Iran more time without making any hard decisions.
Obama may be sending letters to Khamenei and Kerry might be writing checks that he can’t deliver but for Khamenei, the US was and remains the “Great Satan” which represents the “arrogant powers” who are doomed to failure under the great Islamic Awakening and the upcoming “Century of Islam”.
Breaking the Endless Circles: Just Answer 3 Questions!
Iran will have to decide which is better – a nuclear deal or increased poverty?
The West has to decide – can Iran can be trusted with a nuclear program?
And we should all ask ourselves – what happens after Khamenei?