Is There Any Real Hope For The Iranian Regime’s Negotiation With Trump?

Trump and Iran Reuters/Jonathan Ernst, Getty Images/Don Emmert

Mohammad S. Alzou'bi Researcher for Rasanah: International Institute for Iranian Studies
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The Iranian regime’s foreign policy has always depended on many factors incomprehensible to outsiders that stem from the state’s founding ideology, wherein all diplomatic officials must follow the principle of Velayet-e Faqih (Guardianship of the Jurist) and obey the edicts of the Supreme Leader to the letter in all negotiations. These diplomats achieved success in their negotiations with their Obama administration counterparts that resulted in the historic 2015 P5+1 nuclear deal by using their standard techniques of lies, bluster and evasion to benefit the regime and give up as little as possible.

In recent days, President Obama’s successor, President Donald Trump, who recently reimposed sanctions on Iran after announcing the U.S. withdrawal from the deal, has moderated his tone, hinting at his readiness to meet with Iranian regime officials “anytime they want to”, without any preconditions, although his Secretary of State, Pompeo, subsequently said that there was a possibility of preconditions in any such meeting. Iran’s leadership has still not issued any clear response to the proposed meeting that could resemble the one between Trump and Iran’s North Korean ally, Kim Jong Un in June, which was amicable despite following a lengthy war of words between the American and North Korean leaders and resulted in agreement on a number of issues.

Channels of dialogue

Iran’s leaders desperately need to open a channel of dialogue with the United States as the deterioration of the Iranian economy, a crucial pillar of the state, continues to accelerate daily. The arrogant and deceptive bluster deployed in negotiations with representatives of the Obama administration and the other P5+1 member states is unlikely to be effective in any such talks, however, and Iranian efforts to enhance the regime’s prestige and revive Iran’s ancient Persian empire will receive no support. If the regime wishes to survive the current, rapidly growing unrest, it needs to make some major concessions since all indicators suggest that the worsening economic meltdown in Iran has pushed the long-suffering people to a breaking point.

If Iran’s diplomats return to the negotiating table in an effort to salvage the deal, however, the atmosphere is unlikely to bear any resemblance to previously amicable talks with their accommodating Obama administration counterparts. Iran’s leaders are currently focusing on thwarting any efforts at foreign intervention and preventing foreign support for the Iranian people, most of whom want to oust the entire regime, not only the current Rouhani government. Many variables, including considerations of U.S. national security, have led to a radical transformation of U.S. Middle East policy and the alignment of U.S. interests in the region, with Trump administration officials convinced that Iran sought to foment and capitalize on regional chaos in order to destabilize the Middle East and bring it under Iranian rule; indeed, the founding doctrine of the ‘Islamic Republic’ regime asserts that the theocratic leadership must assert its “guardianship” of the Muslim world and support the “oppressed Shiite people”: the regime has pursued this objective through relentless hostility to the United States, as well as to the leaders of Saudi Arabia and other Sunni Muslim Arab states, and by igniting and exploiting sectarian tensions as a means of intervening in Arab nations’ internal affairs.

Economic crisis

Domestically within Iran, there’s much talk from state media about the possibility of ousting Rouhani’s government after the “damage” caused by the U.S. withdrawal from the nuclear deal and the resulting rapidly escalating economic crisis. Since any Iranian government, ‘conservative’ or ‘moderate’, whether or not it satisfies Washington, is subservient to the diktats of the Supreme Leader, the true absolute power in the country with sole authority over the key institutions and all government appointments and policies, no government will be allowed to stand in the way of attaining the regime’s expansionist objective, meaning that any diplomatic efforts to change this core regime policy is effectively dead in the water before even beginning. In addition to the absolute power of the Supreme Leader, his slavishly loyal Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) which effectively controls much of Iran’s economy, opposing any sort of negotiation with the West and inserting itself into all Iran’s regional and international diplomatic affairs, would easily oust the current President Hassan Rouhani and install a more ultra-conservative satrap president and government to implement Khamenei’s directives if it’s felt that Rouhani might attempt any sort of liberalization.

In a recent letter addressed to President Trump following his statement of readiness to negotiate with Iran, the IRGC’s Commander-in-Chief, Mohammad Ali Jafari said starkly that Iran is not North Korea which will respond to such a request positively. Jafari added, “You ought to know the people of Iran have strengthened their religion and faith with the revived Islam brought about by Imam Khomeini. There are many differences between those nations ready to be submissive to hegemonic powers and Iranian people since we will never allow our authorities to negotiate with the Great Satan. ‏Officials of the Islamic Republic of Iran are very well awe of and have often experienced your deceptive manipulative scenarios.” Jafari continued, “‏Former U.S. presidents, either military or political, knew far better than you, or learned that Iran and Iranians are not the ones who will be subdued by threats since they are united against any kind of threat and pressure from foreigners. ‏Ask your experienced and fair-minded experts and thinkers in your country.”

IRGC rejects dialogue

The IRGC commander ended his communique by saying, “Stay in your black palace (White House) and remain under the delusion of meeting with the Iranian officials, and you’ll find out that this is a dream that will remain with you until the end of your presidency, and even the next president of the United States won’t see it.”

It is clear from this contemptuous missive and from similarly dismissive previous Iranian regime statements that, no matter what, the regime and the IRGC will maintain they’re arrogant, reflexively anti-American attitudes and refuse to compromise in any way. The Trump administration will no longer humour their behavior like his predecessors, however, making it very clear that the United States will pursue a strategy of rolling back the Iranian regime’s regional influence and its illegitimate expansionist ambitions The United States can now leverage two major issues inside Iran to undermine the regime; the first of these is the massive protests that have rocked over 80 cities across the country since December 2017 as anger boils over at the leadership over increasing poverty and hardship even while the regime spends billions of dollars on regional wars. It’s clear, therefore, that Iran’s regime faces an uncertain and rapidly worsening future, with unrest and economic crisis threatening to force it into reducing regional interventions simply to cling to power domestically, as well as putting the brakes on its massive military ambitions including the ballistic missile program.

The second way in which Washington could influence or shape Iran’s future would depend on what follows the ultimate collapse of the theocratic regime and the end of the Velayet-e Faqih system; if those who succeed the regime are open to more friendly and constructive channels of dialogue and trade with other nations regionally and globally, this would allow it to be reintegrated into the international community as a normal fully functioning member state.

Mohammad S. Alzou’bi is a freelance journalist and a researcher for Rasanah: International Institute for Iranian Studies in Saudi Arabia.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.