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The Impasse with Iran

Iran and the U.S. aren’t going to be talking [1] anytime soon:

On potential dialogue with Washington, Mr Zarif said: “First they need to show us that reaching an agreement with the US will have some benefit or not and then they can ask for talks about any other deal.”

The U.S. cannot demonstrate to the Iranian government that they will benefit from any agreement that they might make with this administration. Even if the offer looked good on paper, they would have no reason to trust this administration to follow through on any commitments. Because the administration is in thrall to Iran’s regional enemies, the offer will not be appealing in the first place. Iran has every incentive to avoid talking to the U.S. right now, and the administration’s interest in negotiation is disingenuous and purely for show.

There is speculation that the impending Iran visit [2] of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe could help to facilitate dialogue between our two governments, but the core disagreements remain unchanged. Prime Minister Abe has a reasonably good relationship with the Iranian government. As it happens, his father was a previous Japanese foreign minister [3] who traveled to Iran on a trip that he also took part in more than thirty years ago. Abe might be a perfectly capable intermediary, but he cannot bridge the gap that exists between Iran and the U.S. at the present time. Trump will never rejoin the JCPOA, and Iran won’t consider any talks with the U.S. until our government reenters the agreement. In that sense, there is nothing for Abe to mediate, and there is nothing to talk about.

The recent imposition of additional U.S. sanctions on Iran’s petrochemical industry confirmed [4] that proposals to talk were just so much empty rhetoric:

“It was only necessary to wait one week until the claim of the president of America about talks with Iran were proven to be hollow,” Mousavi said in a statement. “The American policy of maximum pressure is a defeated policy.”

The administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign is not merely ineffective, but makes any diplomatic resolution much less likely. As long as Iran is being subjected to unjustified sanctions, they are not going to negotiate with the administration about anything. Trump and his officials have completely misjudged the situation, and they don’t understand that Iranian intransigence will continue to increase as they increase pressure. If they were genuinely interested in diplomacy with Iran, they would not be tacking on more and more sanctions, but of course they have no interest in a diplomatic solution. If they had, they would not have spent the last thirteen months trying to destroy a major successful nonproliferation agreement that the rest of the world supports.

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8 Comments To "The Impasse with Iran"

#1 Comment By Sally Snyder On June 11, 2019 @ 7:37 am

As shown in this article, there is one key reason why Washington’s sanctions against Iran have been less than successful:

[5]

The imposition of sanctions has actually led to a series of completely unanticipated consequences.

#2 Comment By Christian J Chuba On June 11, 2019 @ 8:02 am

But think like Donald Trump and his troop of Neocons, what does it matter to them?

They get to parade around and show everyone how tough they are and declare victory. Iran continues to do what they did before, basically nothing all that bad. No one on Team Trump pays any price or suffers. The only people who suffer are the Iranian people, Yemenis, and to a lesser extent Europe who miss out on business deals and Russia who is likely to endure sanctions for trading with Iran.

How is this not winning?
Iran needs to find a way to change the equation. Develop new trading bloc w/Russia, China, rest of Asia, diversify local economy, military drills short of provoking war to see if we scramble expensive deployments, basically wait us out.

If I was them, I wouldn’t capitulate either. Every former enemy who has done that has ended up being destroyed.

#3 Comment By BD On June 11, 2019 @ 8:24 am

Had Trump decided immediately upon taking office to reach out to Iran to “renegotiate” the agreement–essentially leaving the same agreement in place but putting the Trump name on it–he would have achieved his goal of insulting Obama and appearing like a dealmaker to his gullible supporters. Instead, he went for high drama, pulling out of the agreement and trying to punish our allies for sticking with it, and in the meantime demonstrating that his word was worth nothing. Now one cannot blame the Iranians for not wanting to deal with him–what would be the point?

Yet another “own goal” by this president, the worst negotiator I have ever seen.

#4 Comment By Sid Finster On June 11, 2019 @ 10:09 am

How about the US will have to show that it will abide by any agreement that it makes.

Based on track record, the Iranian government would have to be fools to trust anything the US government agrees to.

#5 Comment By Kouros On June 11, 2019 @ 10:36 am

“The administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign is not merely ineffective, but makes any diplomatic resolution much less likely.”

Is not effective in forcing Iran to surrender, but it is effective in bringing penury of all sorts to Iranians. And apparently US is going to prosecute a European Agency tasked with coordinating humanitarian type of commerce with Iran, the one that EU had set up to use the newly developed mechanism of payments to circumvent SWIFT.

It is liberating to see how the mask is coming off now from the US administration. American people are one thing, and ultimately are they themselves subject of great abuse, a flock to be fleeced at whim. There isn’t any difference between the Iranians that are not able to purchase needed medicine because of the sanctions and the Americans that cannot afford medical insurance or the ever rising cost of drugs, even if they were invented a 100 years ago, like insulin.

So there will be suffering in Iran and deprivation, but that will only make them leaner and meaner and prouder, and that is not a way to subdue a population. You subdue a population by making them lazy and fat and comfortable, like Saudi Arabia is or like a lot of US is). If Yemen would have the same level of weapons as the Saudis, they would be in Riyadh in a week, US help or not.

Looking back to the last 75 years, one could see that a good part of the reason why the socialist block collapsed was not only the inherent contradictions there (i.e. some exposed in the Chernobyl movie, the lying and cutting corners) but was also caused by the blockading of these economies by the US lead block. It is remarkable that despite this blockade, the countries in the socialist block managed to repair their destroyed economies after WWII and even grow at similar rates (but from a minuscule base) as the west. Despite the US.

And the game now, as ever, is who has the most far reaching sling with the most destructive power, and stealthier warriors. It is not the consumer goods technology that the US is worried about, but afraid to loose the ability to bomb whomever, wherever, and whenever they want…

#6 Comment By rayray On June 11, 2019 @ 10:53 am

@BD
One of the hallmarks of Trump’s business career was his inability to actually see what was in his best interest.

Trump’s zero-sum approach, his desire to not just do well, but to do well at the expense or at least humiliation of the other party, his primary desire to be able to be seen as a winner irrespective of whether or not the deal really was a win…is why he doesn’t win.

In other words, as anyone who has ever worked with him will tell you, his insecurity and vanity utterly dominate his personality to the point where he’s actually a pretty nutty dude.

#7 Comment By BD On June 11, 2019 @ 12:18 pm

Rayray–exactly. The best tools for negotiating are (1) excellent knowledge of the subject area, including knowledge about what the other side wants and expects and (2) an ability to ensure that the other side can sell their agreement (or even believe the agreement) as a win. People will even act against their own interest if it means avoiding humiliation, so that’s the last thing you want to present them with.

Trump has absolutely no understanding of any of these issues, as shown by the fact that he recently said all he wants in an agreement is that Iran doesn’t develop a weapon. That is literally what the existing agreement was for, and it provided us leverage if they broke the agreement. If he understood that–and actually cared about keeping Iran from gaining nuclear weapons, which I doubt he really cares about at all–he’d have simply rebranded the agreement and called it a win. Instead, Iran is either going to start up their nuclear weapons program again (learning from North Korea that this is a good way to use leverage regionally and against the U.S.) or they will trade with other countries willing to defy us, leaving America far less influential in that region. After all, who would listen to such an erratic partner?

#8 Comment By SteveK9 On June 11, 2019 @ 5:09 pm

The single positive accomplishment of the Obama tenure was standing up to the American Zionists and negotiating the nuclear arrangement with Iran. Trump is a fool to let Bibi, Sheldon, et. al. convince him to abrogate the agreement.