By Dr. Seyed Asadolah Athary Maryan
Professor for political science and international relations at the Tehran and Gazvin Universities
Translated by Seyid Ali Gaemmagami and Yunus Soner
Iran’s demands from the US concerning conflict and cooperation
1- Areas of conflict and cooperation between America and Iran
Following the election of the Democrat Party candidate Joe Biden, a paradigmatic changed has occurred in the US foreign policy. America has abandoned unilateral policies and turned back to cooperation with international organizations such as the European Union and the NATO. Biden follows a new version of former Democrat Party president Andrew Jackson’s principles. The cornerstones are: national interests direct the path of foreign policy; military interventions into foreign countries can be made if national interests demand that; as a superpower, the international position needs to be reinforced; if necessary, military force can be used against threats.
Instead of a unilateral policy, Joe Biden is favoring a multidimensional, multilateral and flexible foreign policy.
A – Areas of cooperation between Iran and America
The two countries had started a joint struggle in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria against the terrorism of Daesh, Salafi and Taqfiri groups. But Trump has not only terminated this cooperation, he also pushed Iran towards Russia and China. America has not been able to foresee that these two countries would turn the Middle East, the Caucasus and Central Asia to the forefront against Washington. The US has only exempted the development plans for the Chabahar Port from sanctions and has supported Indian investments as a counterbalance to China. At same time, it was made sure that Afghanistan, country under US occupation as well neighbor and natural ally of Iran, could make use of this port and its development plans. America repeated its mistake in Cuba in Iran too and pushed the country towards the Eastern forces. The truth on the contrary is that Iran is the West’s natural ally and the Iranian Revolutionaries were the first to act against Iran’s nature and geopolitical position.
B – Areas of conflict between Iran and America
Against Trump’s policy of maximum pressure and heavy sanctions, Iran has diminished its compliance with the JCPOA and followed the strategy of ‘neither war nor negotiations’. These were the times when Trump was still continuing negotiations with the People’s Democratic Republic of Korea, and the Reformist fraction in Iran was also taking a position favoring negotiations with America.
The Islamic Consultative Assembly, Iran’s parliament, where Conservatives constituted majority, have given the government on December 1st, 2020 an ultimatum of three months by approving the ‘Law of Strategic Action to Lift Sanctions and Protect the Interests of the Iranian People’. The Constitutional Council, also known as the Guardian Council, approved the parliament’s law on the very same day. President Rohani stated that the parliament had taken this decision in order to prevent America from returning to the nuclear agreement.
The law foresees that the Additional Protocol’s implementation will be taken on hold from February 23rd, 2021 on, and all inspections concerning nuclear energy will be illegal except for those, which are part of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The Speaker of the parliament, Mohammad Baghir Ghalibaf declared that according to the law’s article 7, any future cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) requires prior parliament approval, except for the application of the NPT.
This law holds the Iranian Atom Energy Institution responsible to raise the uranium enrichment from 3.67%, as agreed in the JCOPA, to 20% and storage annually at least 120 kg of the material. Iran also has produced uranium metal. The law also holds the government responsible to cancel the Additional Protocol of the NPT, which Iran applies voluntarily, if the other parties to the JCPOA (France, Britain, China, Russia and Germany) do not fulfill their responsibilities towards Iran.
Approaching the end of the 3 months given by the Iranian parliament, representatives of the IAEA and the Iranian government reached a consensus for a three-months-agreement on February 21. The IAEA Chairman Rafael Grossi at the same day evening made a statement. According to Grossi, agreement was reached that Iran would continue its nuclear activities and the IAEA would pursue basic inspections in a limited manner for the coming 3 months.
Iran’s Representative to the IAEA, Kazem Gharibabadi made a statement via Twitter, saying that the complete implementation of the parliament’s decision was very important for Tehran. He added that no one has the right tp take a step back from this position, thus emphasizing that the IAEA will not be granted access. Ghraribabadi continued that if the sanctions are lifted, the data stored in nuclear installations will be presented to the IAEA, and if the sanctions remain, this data will be deleted once for all.
The government emphasized that the agreement reached with the IAEA did not violate the parliament’s law, on the contrary falling within the scope of the legislation. Foreign Minister Javad Zarif stated on his personal twitter account on February 23rd, ‘we have complied with the law and stopped the application of the Additional Protocol. This step is in full compliance with Article 36 of the JCPOA. Joe Biden has not yet stopped the US violations of the agreement.”
The Biden administration sent a letter to the UN Security Council, stating to cancel Trump’s demand of reinstalling UN sanctions on Iran. We can forecast that additional pressure will mount up in the case that Iran cancels the Additional Protocol.
Biden had decided to return to the 5+1 nuclear agreement. But following Biden’s take over of government, there has been no changes or new developments in the nuclear issue yet.
Biden has cancelled Trump’s decision to reactivate the snapback mechanism and reinstate all sanctions, which had been abolished by the UN Security Council decision No. 2231 from August 20, 2020.
Biden also cancelled the travel restrictions on diplomats of the Islamic Republic of Iran that are working in the UN Headquarters.
Biden also lifted his veto against Iran’s demand for a 5 billion US Dollar credit, demanded for medical equipment and Covid vaccination. Biden has promised to lift the sanctions. But he has made not statement concerning the lifting of sanctions in the sectors of banking, oil, metals, mining and arms industry.
2- Regional developments
A – The Yemen Crisis
The Biden administration decided on January 25th to stop the war in Yemen, delist the Ansarullah and the Houthis from the terror list, to stop temporarily the arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the UAE and to develop trade relations with Yemen. Trump was supporting the Saudi regimes attacks and was imposing sanctions on the Yemeni Houthis. It was therefore heavily criticized by human rights organizations. Iran has been emphasizing from the beginning that the Ansarullah Movement is not a terrorist organization, and condemning Saudi Arabia and the UAE’s attempt to occupy the Yemen and massacre its population.
B- The Iraq Crisis
Iran was the first country to officially recognize the new government system of Iraq. The Arab countries on that time were on the contrary still refusing to recognize the new constitutional system of Iran. Iran and America were meeting and leading contacts concerning Iraq.
But the situation has changed during the Trump administration. The General Qasem Soleimani and Abu Mehdi Muhendis fell victim to US Special Forces’ terror attacks and martyred, resulting in lifted tensions between Iran and America. Iran has vowed to take the hardest revenge. Iran has demanded the retreat of American soldiers from Iraq and from the region. America on the other side has prohibited cooperation and commercial relations between Iraq and Iran. If this tense situation is continued, then the tension in Irani-American relations will continue too. America prevents Iraq from paying its debts to Iran. Iraq, Syria and Lebanon are considered the forefront of Iran. These countries may potentially turn into battlefields between Iran and America.
C- Israel and the Peace Process
Israel is both, America’s biggest problem and cause of headache in foreign policy as well as its biggest regional ally. The Trump administration has included Israel into the CENTCOM’s responsibility and tried to revive Nixon’s ‘twin pillars doctrine’. According to Iranian Reformists, Iran’s ideological view on Israel does not fit into Iran’s national interests. They demand that Iran should move from the ideological perspective to the national interest perspective, from the Ummah approach to the ‘nation-state’.
During Sayyed Mohammad Khatami’s presidency, Iran has rejected the two-state-model, which legitimizes the Israeli occupation on Zionist bases, and instead proposed a ‘Palestine Referendum’ peace plan relying on ‘unification, democracy, equality and human rights’. The Organization of Islamic Cooperation has also approved this plan. The Supreme Leader of the Revolution, Ayatollah Khamenei has also supported this plan.
A ‘Palestine Referendum’ or the ‘Plan of democratic peace in Palestine is Iran’s proposal to the world community, the freedom loving peoples and the Muslim nations to solve the problem of oppressed Palestine.
The Zionist Israeli regime follows a policy based on occupation, terror, massacres, genocide and militarism, and it tries to blind all, the Jews, the Arabs, the Muslims, the Christians and other nations. Therefor, it is doomed to disappear just the same way as the Apartheid regime in South Africa did. Iran distinguishes Zionism and Jewish religion. Iran emphasizes that Zionism is an extremist Jewish nationalism and a racist approach, which has take Jews hostage.
America supports Israel without conditions, while Iran does not recognize Israel as a legitimate state.
On the evening of February 25th, an explosion occurred on an Israeli cargo ship in the Sea of Oman. Following the explosion on this ship, the MV Helios Ray travelling from Saudi Arabia to Indonesia, the Israeli authorities blamed Iran. Israeli representatives spoke to the Israeli public broadcaster KAN, stating “Iran has targeted the Israeli ship in the Sea of Oman in order to force the US back to negotiations”. The attack on the Israeli ship shows that Israel’s hit-and-run tactics are over and the country will respond accordingly to any attack.
The Israeli authorities claim that Iran had attacked the ship using mines or missiles. But Iran has not claimed any responsibility for the attack.
Israel constantly bombards the Iranian military posts and positions of the Resistance in Syria. Iranian forces’ strategic presence in proximity to the occupied Golan Heights has worried the Israeli regime. Especially during the Trump administration, Israel has started a strategy of attack, sabotage and assassinations against Iran. Israeli authorities have previously declared to have organized hundreds of attacks on Iran-connected targets in Syria.
An important development can occur in the relations between Iran and Israel with American support. Iran and Israel can de facto and indirectly agree on stopping the mutual attacks on each other and give up the Zero-Sum-Game. As a sign of goodwill, Israel can pay back its debt of 650 million US dollars to Iran, stemming from times before the Islamic revolution. Israel has already before tried to pay back this debt to Iran with Russian mediation. But the question remains how Iran is going to receive this payment from Israel, which it does not recognize as a state.
The Peace Plan of Abraham Accords and Pan-Semitism may threaten Iran’s national security. Iran can respond by developing new regional alliances and establishing a balance.
D – Syria crisis
Syria is Iran’s natural regional ally. Iran is Syria’s natural regional ally. Trump has opened the path for the Turkish AKP government’s occupation of parts of North Syria on the excuse of fighting the PKK terror. The Turkish president has called both, Donald Trump and Joe Biden, to cooperate in Syria.
The American Special Forces have bombarded both, the Hashdi Shaabi in Iraq, which are the Iraqi popular defense forces that have eliminated the DAESH and other Taqfiri terrorists in Iraq, as well as the Kata’ib Hezbollah forces on the border to Syria. On that way, the Biden administration has demonstrated that it might also continue attacks on Iran-allied popular resistance forces.
The Secretary General of the Iranian National Security Council responded, stating that America is supporting and protecting the activities of DAESH by attacking Hashdi Shaabi and Kata’ib Hezbollah, reiterating that Iran and other countries that fight the Taqfiri terrorism will not allow attempts to revitalize the terror.
Iran supports the anti-Zionist Lebanese Hezbollah that fights a war of liberation against the occupying Israel, Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement as well as the Ansarullah resistance movement in Yemen and the legitimate popular defense forces of Hashdi Shaabi in Iraq. Iran supports this people-based organization in accordance with its national security doctrine and strategy within the context of the Axis of Resistance. Iran also invited some of the Taliban leaders to Tehran for meetings. As its geopolitical position and regional influence is neglected, Iran is developing cooperation and solidarity with the region’s nations and opposition groups on the basis of the Ummah Approach.
Human rights: The Biden administration will try to pressure Iran with accusations of violation of human rights. The Trump administration did not care about human rights violations in other countries or applied a policy of double standards. But presidents of the Democrat Party keep human rights violations high on the agenda.
With Biden taking over the White House, hope has aroused that the America might return to the nuclear agreement, tension will diminish in bilateral relations and the Iranian economy may revive again. The economic situation of the middle class and the working classes may get better, just as it had happened during the times of Mohammed Khatami, because the popular masses living in the cities are considered the electoral base of the reformists. Diminishing tensions may result in the rise of the Reformists. Of course one has to approach carefully and cautiously, considering Biden’s way of thinking, because Biden will act step by step, developing relations and alliances with other countries and thus, defining a position on Iran. This method fits into the approach of a calculated and planned conflict. It is not possible to determine a strategy in the context of an undefined conflict in uncertain circumstances. There, it is only possible to define some exit options as long-term targets.
Taking into consideration a planned conflict and step-by-step approach, which position is to be expected from Biden towards Iran?
Sometimes, it is possible to catch details of theories discussed in secret gatherings with just one expression. Trump intended to force Iran back to sign a nuclear agreement by maximum pressure and heavy sanctions.
But some representatives of the Biden administration already stated that Iran would be kept in the box and limited with a new nuclear agreement.
Before judging whether this assumption is right, we have to evaluate Biden and his foreign policy staff’s assessments on foreign policy:
1 – Pressure has affected Iran negatively.
2 – Iran’s oil export income has decreased and its economic situation has worsened, reaching a bad level.
3 – Iran’s nuclear program and foreign policy is determined and carried out by forces beyond the government.
4 – It is necessary to sign a new nuclear agreement in order to fully stop the nuclear program. This outcome is independent from the question, which fraction is sitting on the other side of the table.
5 – A united front consisting of the US, the European Union, Israel and Saudi Arabia will limit Iran’s options extraordinarily.
Trump gaining the presidency, cancelling the JCPOA unilaterally and imposing heavy sanctions has carried the tensions between America and Iran to the highest level. In consequence of these actions, the Conservative fraction in Iran has gained strength and the Reformist wing has lost power and reputation. But with Biden gaining power and returning to the JCPOA, the Reformists and Moderates may gain strength again turn the domestic demand for reforms into a process of democratization.
Iran’s demands from the US
Concerning national issues, both fractions of thought share the same goals within the political system. But they apply different tactics. The political fractions in Iran are living an experience similar to that of the Soviet Union or the People’s Republic of China. Similarities exist also in ideological terms. The conflict between Stalin and those that wanted to export the socialist revolution; the conflict between Deng Xiao Ping, who in contrast to Mao Tse Tung wanted to prioritize economy instead of ideology and opened the doors of China to attract more foreign investment and develop the Chinese economy, leading to fundamental changes on the one side and the conservative fraction that rejected the opening on the other; similar conflicts take place currently in Iran.
In the current new phase, the Reformist fraction defends the position to negotiate and compromise with America on the basis of the principle of mutual respect and equality. The reformist’s priority is to achieve national interests, and national interests are the criteria to determine friend and foe. For the Reformists, there is no theory or concept beyond this in foreign relations or the theory of international relations. Security experts and important representatives of the Reformist fraction have left hostility against America and the West aside and represent a similar position as academic circles and the – although weakened – middle class. Iran’s inevitable concessions to Russia after the Iranian-Russian war, its signing of UNSC resolution No 598 to end the war which Iraq had imposed upon Iran, Tehran’s signature to the JCPOA during the Obama administration, formulated as “heroic flexibility” all show how important context, concrete circumstances and understanding are in decision-making. Iran should pursue negotiations whenever opportunities are given meanwhile negotiating without an alternative will lead only do damage.
America’s demands from Iran
Iran must comply fully with the JCPOA and limit the range of its missiles. It must stop supporting liberation organizations in the region and the Axis of Resistance, starting with Palestine. It must review its regional policies.
Iran’s demands from America
America must show respect to Iran’s 2500 years old shining civilization and stop intimidating actions. It was America that started the hostilities, not Iran. Iran had formerly considered America as a third force and made use of it according to its interests. Chancellor Mirza Taghi Khan Farahani (known as Amir Kabir, 1807 – 1852) has tried to establish good relations with America.
The Red Army had occupied the northern regions and Kurdistan province of Iran after World War I, but it and its collaborators had to retreat from the Azerbaijan and Kurdistan provinces following threats from America. During the Cold War, Iran and America have signed an agreement of friendship. But the elected government of Mohammed Musaddeq was overthrown in a coup organized by the US intelligence agency CIA, and the British MI6. This has weakened the Iranian people’s trust towards America and caused harsh reactions. Following the Islamic Revolution, America has frozen its diplomatic relations with Iran and supported the Iraqi Baath regime’s war against Tehran. It has shot down an Iranian passenger plane and attacked the Iranian navy, sinking some ships.
During the Presidency of Khatami, America has apologized for the coup of 1953, and the relations have entered a brief positive phase. But America imposed sanctions on Iran due to Iran’s nuclear program.
The truth is that the fact of broken diplomatic relations harms both countries. Therefore, it is necessary to normalize bilateral relations.
Decisions taken during the Presidency of Jimmy Carter have blocked and confiscated Iran’s diplomatic representations in the US, its bank accounts, its already paid defense and weapon systems. Iran demands that these funds are released and paid including the according interest rates. Iran and America have signed an agreement with Algeria’s mediation on January 19th, 1981, resulting in the release of American diplomatic personnel in Tehran. Some of Iran’s blocked goods and banc accounts were released within the agreement, exempting arms and weapons. Iran and America have also agreed to solve their problems within the regulations of international law.
During the government of Dr. Mohammed Mosaddeq, Iran’s funds and gold reserves had been blocked and not paid out by the Soviet Union. The Iranian people had suffered economically for that reason.
Iran is well conscious about the fact that it cannot overcome the American sanctions with the support of countries such as Russia, India and China. Because these countries themselves have close economic, trade and investment relations with America according to their own interests. Additionally, these countries benefit from the sanctions against Iran, support their own national currencies and instead of paying Iran in cash or hard currencies, they sell their own goods.
In order to lift the sanctions against Iran and set the oil export free, America itself has to return to the nuclear agreement. America applies heavy sanctions against Iran on finance, trade, economy, banking, military equipment, maritime and air logistics and travel. Besides, America supports groups that oppose the Islamic order of Iran as well as separatist and terrorist groups. They also pursue destructive cyber attacks. Iran sticks to the JCPOA and emphasizes that America needs to return to the agreement. Iran will continue to fulfill the JCPOA on the condition that America returns to the agreement as well and lifts the sanctions. Negotiations with America must guarantee on the bases of bilateral agreements and international law that the sanctions will be lifted.
Iran demands that its bank accounts and funds are released. The country’s bank accounts in South Korea, Japan, China, India, Oman and Iraq, containing more then 40 billion US dollars, are frozen. The concerning countries will be able to release the funds with permission of the OFAC (Office of Foreign Assets Control), which is connected to the US Treasury. It is a matter of these countries to get the permission from the OFAC for the Iranian accounts, which they have frozen and avoid to release, as the director of the Iranian Central Bank, Abdulnasır Himmeti has emphasized. The concerning countries are obliged to pay their debt to Iran. It is unacceptable that the Iranian economy falls under the control of the US Treasury.
Iran has fulfilled its obligations. It has shown goodwill in a number of files, for instance the Afghanistan issue. But it has been declared part of the “Axis of Evil” during the Bush presidency. Meanwhile, Trump was demanding that Iran keeps on complying with the JCPOA, in spite of the facts that the US has retreated from the agreement unilaterally.
Beyond any humanitarian concern, the US has even sabotaged Iran’s access to medicine and medical equipment in the fight against the Coronavirus.
The Islamic Republic of Iran’s regional policies
1- Iran supports the Palestinian people’s anti-Zionist war of liberation against the occupation.
Iran demands the implementation of the UNSC Resolutions No 242 and 338, including the Palestinians right to return to their homes and a guarantee to their right of establishing a free, independent state. The racist Israeli regime must comply with these resolutions and retreat from West Jordan land, East Jerusalem, the Egyptian Sinai and Syria’s Golan Heights and an independent Palestinian state in the borders of 1967 must be established. The Abraham Accords officially recognize the existence of the Israeli regime and its occupations and neglect the existence of a Palestinian people. As long as the existence of the Palestinian people is not recognized and a Palestinian state established, will the dictated Abraham Accords not provide regional peace. The Iranian-supported Palestinian Cause is a war of identity and existence. The legitimacy of the order of Islamic Republic of Iran is not dependent on being the antithesis of Israel and America. Iran may finally take the turn from Ummah oriented politics to the “nation-state”.
2- The civilizational sphere of Iran includes the Caucasus, Central Asia and the Caspian Sea.
Iran’s civilizational influence on these regions cannot be neglected. The Caspian Sea’s international law status can finally be determined under participation of coastal countries including Russia and Iran. Erdoğan and Putin’s proposal of 3+3 cooperation agreement in the Caucasus, following the Iranian initiative, can develop regional peace and cooperation. Iran’s renouncement from the Caucasus and Central Asia will affect its national security and national interests negatively. Iran’s focus on the Middle East has up until a certain degree resulted in the Caucasus and Central Asia to been forgotten. America on the other side tries to prevent an Islamic-Slavic-Confuciusian alliance.
3- Middle East Peace Plan
If the Middle East Peace Plan is put in action, if the rights of the Palestinian people are protected and endorsed, if Zionist Israel’s occupation is terminated, if the issues of Yemen, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria are solved, then it is possible that Iran turns away from the Ummah-centered politics of Axis of Resistance to policies of “nation-state”.
As the foreign minister of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Mohammad Javad Zarif emphasizes, the US needs to terminate its military presence in the Persian Gulf and regional countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. All nuclear and mass destruction weapons in the region must be destroyed, beginning with those of Zionist Israel. America’s support for Israel’s occupation attempts must be terminated. The sanctions against Iran must be lifted, the financial damage of hundreds of billions of dollars caused to Iran due to the unilateral cancellation of the JCPOA must be compensated and everyone, who is in detention in the US because of having violated the sanctions regime, must be released. America must respect Iran’s independence and the basic rights of the Iranian people. They must stop their aggressive and oppressive policies against Iran and other regional countries.
The list of murders committed by the US against the Iranian people is very long. They have pursued the Ajax Operation in August 19th, 1953 and have overthrown with their intelligence agencies the elected government of Prime Minister Dr. Mohammed Mosaddeq, after this government had nationalized the oil. They organized a bloody military coup to bring the Pahlawi family back to power. America established the dominance of “Savak-Mossad” over the Iranian people. America and some NATO countries have equipped the regime of Saddam Hussein with chemical weapons, which were used to kill more then 100 thousand Iranian soldiers and civilians. America and Israel have together organized assassinations of scientist in the field nuclear sciences. They organized cyber attacks on Iranian nuclear facilities.
Keeping these realities in mind, America and Iran can enter negotiations. The Iranian and American people, business people of both countries, investors and academics can organize mutual visits. The two countries can develop cultural cooperation. The Iranian scientists and academics in America can be permitted to travel to Iran. Student exchange can be organized. Flights between the two countries can begin.
The world took a sigh of relief when the Trump regime has crushed down. The election of Joe Biden to the presidency and his promise to return to international agreements and institutions has opened new opportunities to all countries. Under these circumstances, Iran needs to take advantage from the opportunity to realize its national interests. Otherwise, these opportunities will be lost. Iran’s Reformist fractions need to get in action to promote the country’s national interests and fulfill their obligations to develop Iran, to realize basic rights and welfare.