Can Iran Compromise With US?

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“Is it possible to compromise with America and reach an agreement?” The Iranian hard-line Jahan website asked this question after comments by Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani that “Compromise with a peaceful enemy is permissible.” In Iran, “enemy” is typically a reference to the United States, and negotiations or direct talks with America have lately been a prevalent theme in Iranian media, especially in light of the high-profile visits yesterday by the sultan of Oman and the United Nations undersecretary-general for political affairs, Jeffrey Feltman, who some believe traveled to Tehran to carry messages from Western countries.

Speaking at a conference of ambassadors, Rafsanjani quoted a verse from the Quran: “If the enemy is inclined toward peace, be inclined toward peace as well and put your faith in God.” Mohammad Imani wrote that it is important to ask, then, how “compromise with America is judged.”

Imani dismissed the idea that the visits of Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said or Feltman, also the former US assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs, had any new significance for Iran-US relations.

“Feltman traveled to Tehran with [UN Sectretary-General] Ban Ki Moon last summer for the Non-Aligned Movement meeting” Imani wrote, adding, “The challenges between us and America” are larger than just two individuals not speaking to one another. He continued, “Of course, it is not of the status of Sultan Qaboos to be compared to” a former American official, but “It is not his first trip to Tehran.”

Imani wrote that these high-profile trips are not new, “just like the worthless CIA documents that confirmed their interference in the 1953 coup after 60 years that brought nothing but smiles and mockery from Iranian observers.” He continued, “The challenges between America and Iran are too deep to be cured by a blindfolded media and revamped diplomacy.”

There are two schools of thought in approaching a compromise with America, according to Imani. One group believes that “Essentially, a strategic friendship between American and Iran is possible,” he said. The second group “accepts that a friendship is not possible” but that it is important to work with “this power (US) and remove the threats and to open up the country.”

“The first group essentially has suicidal behavior, [given] historical experiences,” Imani wrote. He continued, “If someone does not believe in the Islamic Republic but is a patriot, he will not have the smallest doubt about America’s maliciousness and perfidy.” To prove his argument, Imani compared Western countries’ claim that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had used chemical weapons with “a report by Foreign Policy indicates that the American government knew that Saddam [Hussein] used chemical weapons against the people of Iran from 1983 to 1988 and continued to support him.”

The second group, “which believes in removing threats,” has a position that is worth “contemplating,” wrote Imani. However, Imani warned that the same mistakes that were made 10 years ago by the Reformist government when Iran reached an agreement with Western countries over the nuclear program should not be repeated. Imani believes that when “the opponent can read your hand,” it will “impose heavy costs.” President Hassan Rouhani was the chief nuclear negotiator when Iran signed an agreement with the West in 2003.

“It is important to understand at what level is our challenge with America,” Imani wrote. “Are our differences solvable, or do they have a problem with our existence? Another way this question can be presented is, did the Americans have a problem with the person that was the former president and do [they] not have enmities with the new elected president? Meaning, was the issue personal in that the two months that Dr. Rouhani was elected and has replaced [former President] Dr. [Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad, that there is a new pulse such that new hostile sanctions were not passed…?” he asked rhetorically in regard to the new US sanctions passed by the US Congress.

Imani criticized Rafsanjani’s comments and an interview he gave in which he said that he told Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini that he wanted to negotiate with the US. In that interview, Rafsanjani said that one of the West’s concerns was that Iran stop its “adventurism.” Imani asked, “Is 20% enrichment ‘adventurism’ or 5.3%? Ten years ago or even 20 years, when there was no enrichment, what was the excuse then? When it was agreed that you’d retreat, one or two concessions was not enough for the enemy.” He continued, “If Hezbollah did not put the brakes on the occupying Zionists, today we would have to fight them here on our own soil.”

“From the viewpoint of the arrogant powers,” Imani wrote, “the uprising of the Iranian people from nationalizing oil to the constitutional movement was ‘adventurism.’” He continued, “Mossadegh’s optimism for reaching a compromise with America set the country back 25 years [until 979 revolution].” Imani concluded that the right lay with the founder of Fadayan-e Islam, Navab Safavi, who was responsible and eventually executed for the assassination of politicians and had told Mossadegh, “You opened the door to the Americans again, and the nation once again has to sacrifice and give martyrs and be tormented for years until the Americans are expelled.”