With recent reports that suggest that the hopes for a new, revived Iran Nuclear Deal (sometimes known as the JCPOA) are now in serious danger, in part because of the recalcitrance of Washington and President Joe Biden, and in part because of the cautious pessimism now emanating out of Tehran, the American President and his administration must come to their senses. There is simply too much at stake, for every and all parties, for this all to collapse at this juncture.
Meanwhile, the Ayatollah and his handpicked successor, the current President, Ebrahim Raisi, are demanding, through their negotiators of course, that Washington include some type of promise or guarantee that future administrations will not unilaterally withdraw the United States from this new treaty when a reactionary regime potentially gets into office.
This is an intelligent demand to make on the part of the Iranian contingency, and one that I would also make were I in their position; unfortunately, this is the logical play that was put into action, not be either Joe Biden or his Democratic predecessor, the President who signed the original JCPOA, 44th President Barack Obama, but by the 45th President, Donald J Trump. This is something that could have been predicted of course, and was in fact predicted by this writer in previous essays on the topic; the 45th President reneged America out of a multilateral, internationally significant piece of diplomacy, stating that it was, to paraphrase ever so slightly, the worst deal imaginable, only to ensure, should another be agreed to, that its successor could be no better, and in fact only less agreeable to the US and its allies than before.
That is because Iran did not break the treaty when the US pulled itself from it, and neutral international bodies and American allies alike agree as much, other than Israel of course. Even Saudi Arabia, a long time regional rival of Iran dating back to the Iranian Revolution that pushed Iran out of the American-Saudi orbit and beyond, has been trying to create better relations with Iran, which would likely benefit relations between those two nations, as well as their allies, moving into the future. America, however, remains a nuisance to its own ambitions in this way; it wants to create better relationships across the world, and particularly in the middle east, and yet cannot bring itself to make the concessions to make these innovations anything more than daydreams.
When Democrats under Obama came so close, that work was all quickly undone by Republicans, for no tenable reason other than spite and jealousy, and now, with political stigmas the way they are in America currently, President Biden does not feel politically safe enough to treat Iran as equal, even victimized partners in this entire diplomatic ordeal. Instead, he has somehow attempted to weaponize the fact that they have, in the time since Trump removed American cooperation in the JCPOA, returned to their tactical nuclear development, which was the tactically correct play for the nation after the actions of the Trump administration, whether anyone likes it or not.
“Force is all-conquering, but its victories are shortlived” – 16th President of the United States of America, Abraham Lincoln
Biden has postered all of this bluster as setting a firm line for the Iranians, and yet he ignores the very fact that America was the mistaken party in all of this, and not Iran; maximum pressures and red lines are of little relevance at this current stage of the diplomatic relationship between the US and Iran. The subtle, unsaid expectation of these intimations is that the Iranians, although cooperating and abiding by the treaty that Donald Trump decided wasn’t actually a massive innovation for the future of the world at large, should have continued to trust in the agreement that was just violated by the United States, instead of returning to a position of leverage in hopes of improving their negotiating position in the future.
Were Iran to have operated in this way, it would have been a remarkable disservice to their own people, as well as their own potential international and diplomatic position, and would have been a further embarrassing capitulation of a proud peoples. It would have made literally no sense for the government of Iran to behave in this way, and it is difficult to find any historical example that might mirror that incredibly naive, paradoxical outlook. No, while no one wishes for Iran to possess Nuclear weapons, even some of its closer allies, it makes complete sense, politically and practically, to increase the nuclear leverage that they possess for when a more reasonable, sane American administration takes power back.
Furthermore, with the “maximum pressure” campaign that was being waged by the Trump administration in the years after sanctions were renewed against Iran taken into consideration, to have capitulated would have likely been a further death sentence for not only the people of the nation of Iran, particularly with the outbreak of COVID-19, but for the government that is in charge of it currently as well. A fantastic poll by the Center For International & Security Studies At Maryland shows that Iranians are not content with this government, even as it fought back against the Trump administration and its tyranny at the end of the Hassan Rouhani administration, and continuing during this early Raisi administration; why they are mad is, of course, quite obvious and these reasons are, in fact, all quite reasonable.
The electoral process is simply broken, and millions of young Iranians see this. The economy is in tatters, because of American sanctions, and because of internal mishandling and incompetence. Women want more rights, and the campaign of Islamisation that has never been completed since the Iranian Revolution is unwanted by the current population of the country. These internal, domestic issues are those problems that a nation faces, and cannot escape from necessarily without either innovation or increased repression.
The recently deceased first President of Iran, Abolhassan Banisadr, stated in an interview relatively shortly before his death, that the current government as it sits is in a precarious position, and will not be able to last as greater international integration takes place. In this interview, he argued that actions like those of the American conservatives actually do more to empower the theocratic, reactionary and intolerant strains of Iran’s Principlist “intellectuals.” While he was speaking about the behavior of the 45th President, were he still with us, it would likely boggle his mind why exactly the next President, a man who has much more sense than his predecessor, would waste this opportunity, even because of the posturing that current President Raisi has been demonstrating since he won the office after the two terms of moderate, former chief nuclear negotiator, Hassan Rouhani.
President Biden surely understands that, after the previous four years of humiliations that America and Donald Trump slathered upon the nation, all before the COVID-19 pandemic swept across the entire nation multiple times to this point, the powerful, reactionary forces of the nation have been woken by the diplomatic tactlessness of the American Republican Party, and are attempting to assert their nation’s strength and resolve during a period in which new negotiations are actually possible.
Make no mistake about it, while reports suggest that the deal may become only a dream, there is far too much riding on the line for all parties involved for that to become reality. For Iran, the population is in strong favor of the deal, and the politicians understand, especially after the aforementioned pandemic, that the country and people itself, as well as their own hold on both, are endangered by not having proper economic and material access to international markets and cooperation.
The United States meanwhile, understands that the previous deal was positive, and was a part of creating the change that all nations seek; peace, mutual prosperity and development, as well as real growth that could be further created thanks to greater trust and cooperation as climate change, further pandemics and other grave issues loom in the worlds not-so-distant future.
And then there is Europe and the other participating partners in the deal, of whom are oftentimes forgotten because of the Americentric focus that many Americans have when dealing with foreign policy and the like. When Donald Trump pulled the US out of the JCPOA, he was not only damaging the credibility of his own country, but that of his own countries staunchest allies and, ally or not, many of their most important working partners too. It left them in a terrible spot themselves, and one that Iran, on the whole, does not hold against them, which the US should be, in many instances, equally as grateful for as the potential for continued negotiations.
Europe was left to attempt to juggle maintaining a nuclear deal that no longer had the same incentives as were originally offered, and yet still offered some that were always going to come from the European part of this agreement. They were left trying to placate the American President who unilaterally, and against their own wishes, pulled the biggest partner out of the international, multilateral partnership, while at the same time, they attempted to illustrate to Iran that those nations still believed and indeed, had positive, good faith in the proceedings, no matter how that ended up working out.
It was an unfortunate position for one ally to put their friends in, and yet luckily for all parties involved, those blighted parties were, for the most part, able to maintain their composure without causing too great a deterioration of relations from that point to this current point. The most notable exception to the previous statement is, undoubtedly, the election of Ebrahim Raisi, against much of the peoples’ will; that was an executive decision, not by the people of Iran, but by the ruling oligarchy of the Ayatollah and his Guardian Council.
While that is probably putting a hiccup in the proceedings to reconstruct the previous nuclear deal, with innovations to mark new circumstances and a significant passage of time, it is not the only issue. The continued diplomatic stance of the American President, as well as his fears regarding his party’s electoral chances in 2022 and ‘24, and the way such a deal might be presented by the reactionary faction of American politics, is stopping this deal from coming together more than anything else.
Yet the American people, like their brothers and sisters in Iran, wish for this deal to be reconstructed. They see the plight of Iranians and they wish for relations to be more civil, more mutual, and fairer in all ways; they have come to understand the merits and potential merits of the deal that Barack Obama signed, and that Republicans castigated at the time, while they have grown to disagree with and appraise with disdain the 45th President’s handling of the situation. While he said that he reneged the USA from the deal for its own good, the real reason is obvious and much less altruistic than the former President has ever cared to let on.
“Never hate your enemies. It affects your judgment” – Don Vito Corleone of Mario Puzo’s “The Godfather”
Donald Trump loves to hate. It gets him going in a way that few other things likely do. He loves to hate his enemies, his perceived enemies, those who do not like him, and those he feels do not like him enough. It is part manic, and part psychotic to be frank; it is a cyclical function that can always create new fuel for Trump and his movement out of thin air if need be, and it needn’t be from an external enemy exclusively either.
While American enemies for Donald Trump could very well be Mexican or other South or Latin American immigrants at the border, Iranians and their Military Leadership, Cuba or literally any other nation and its people other than Russia, the 45th President is able, like the fascists of years gone by, to think and fear more abstractly still. The enemy image or images that Trump and his party choose to use next, could also be Democrats – the secret American communists – Independents, never-Trump Republicans, Science, History, ephemeral notions or misunderstood concepts like Critical Theory and, more particularly, Critical Race Theory, or simply Americans that do not look like “Americans,” whatever that means. It is all up to the moment and their own discretion in choosing which idea, concept or peoples to demonize and villify next.
For these folks, in line with the beliefs of the former President Donald Trump, enemies to America are not only those foreign nations or peoples, but can in fact be Americans themselves. They are not, however, wearing Proud Boy clothing, marching with torches, hitting people with cars or talking about “replacement theory,” but are protesting for better social conditions for all people, black, white, brown, and otherwise. Enemies of this ilk are also writing essays like the one you are reading, they are dreaming of a better world and they are often working to unite people in the face of abject bigotry, tactlessness and subtle, unthinking racism as much as that overt, widely discredited and verbose kind identifiable by all.
Those that wish for progress, in other words, are enemies to the reactionary right, and all that they do are the actions of enemies, and so, therefore, must be hated in much the same way as their enemies are. This, of course, brings us back to the greater topic at hand: Donald Trump did not renege America from the JCPOA because he was concerned that it would endanger America, Americans, or even the greater world at large somehow. He made this decision because he had the power to do so, and, more importantly, and relevantly than that, because, in the words of the famous fictional Don Vito Corleone, created by Mario Puzo in his novel, The Godfather, because he hated his enemies so, and as a result, it badly affected his judgment.
His hate, to be sure, was aimed less at Iran and Iranians, and more at the man who signed the agreement in the first instance; Barack Obama made fun of him, mocked him, and embarrassed him all those years ago at the White House Press Dinner, and he has never since forgotten for even a day. He absolutely hates Barack Obama as few Presidents have hated their predecessors or successors. While Donald Trump grew to hate Iran and vilified the entire process, taking former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s side of things, it was his first hate, for Barack Obama and his policies, that might have put the wheels in motion to begin with; it was the deal that was signed by Obama that had to be the worst deal ever, but only because of who signed it.
Now, the consequences of pulling out of a multilateral piece of diplomatic history are a bit more far-ranging and vast than most consequences that originate from a poor decision based on hate. The external ramifications, as has been mentioned previously, touch Iranians of all ages, every other nation who is trying to work towards a better world that Iran is a part of, even if their government and policies are intolerable. As the aforementioned polling indicates, Americans realize the part they play in this too, and they no longer wish to be held as a responsible party regarding the suffering of others, no matter where they are across the vast globe.
Yet the 45th President pulled America out because he would rather have his revenge on the legacy of the former President than do what is right for the world and its people. His own feelings mean more to him than those of millions of faceless, nameless people across the world, and so he would behave so recklessly with the lives of millions, and with the trust of billions. That is no leader, and behavior of that kind is no leadership; there is no bravery or courage to be found in being selfish, in acting selfishly, or in taking the easy way out in order to inflate yourself to a certain constituency.
There is no real power in hatred, in the destruction of agreements that might spare and improve the lives of millions of people around the world, which includes America mind you. No, real power rests in those decisions of which are the most difficult to maintain, and of which usually and generally result in the biggest boons for the most amount of people across the entire world. When the world flourishes, so too do the greatest nations of this world, and yet when a nation holds others in contempt, in excommunication and in a sort of diplomatic and political purgatory, there can be no true greatness achieved by any nation as their brothers and sisters are shackled and isolated.
That is precisely why Joe Biden must come to his senses and fight to make sure that this deal, of which the world, the Iranians and the Americans all wish for, must be reconstructed, reimagined and renegotiated. Iran must be brought back into the international community properly, and civil and economic relations must be reestablished too; domestic social progress must be further won for the people of Iran through greater negotiations from those nations who so often harp and make note of the poor conditions that people across the world live under, which includes Iran, as well as America.
Progress, in the final analysis, comes from diplomacy, not barbarism, the flash of steel, the explosion of powder or the detonation of nuclear weaponry. It comes from working on issues through compromise, trust and mutuality, instead of through lenses of greed, of gain, or of self-interest. International relations is, after all, a balancing act, of which must always consider not only that which is good for one’s own nation, but for each other nation within the international community or neighborhood in which we all find ourselves living within. The Iran Nuclear Deal must be reinvented and reconceived, for so many lives, born and unborn, ride on the ability of these men and women to figure out a way forward for all nations and peoples involved.