Trump thinks he can craft a new deal with Iran by imposing tougher sanctions. If history is any guide, there will be no capitulation by Iran. Tehran has already offered repeated concessions to the American government, but the US rejected them outright.
As I have mentioned in The Syrian, the Iranians, in March 2003, sent a comprehensive negotiation proposal to the George W. Bush administration through the Swiss ambassador in Tehran. Unlike the Iran nuclear deal, this proposal was not solely focused on nuclear matters. The Iranians offered to help stabilize Iraq, disarm Hezbollah and collaborate against terrorist organizations, in particular al-Qaeda. They even offered to sign on to the 2002 Beirut Declaration, recognizing Israeli statehood in return for Israel’s recognition of a Palestinian state. Tehran also offered to open its nuclear program for full transparency.
The Bush administration did not even dignify Iran with a response, assuming it could, instead, secure a better outcome by continuing to pressure Iran with more stringent sanctions.
Two years later, the Iranians sent another proposal through the Europeans. Having already expanded its nuclear program, Tehran offered to cap its centrifuges at 3,000. At the time of the 2003 proposal, Iran had roughly 150 nuclear centrifuges. By 2013, Tehran had 22,000.
The US still believes it is most powerful and therefore does not need to offer anyone concessions. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The diplomacy that lead to the Iran nuclear deal would never have taken place without Obama, in secret negotiations, accepting nuclear enrichment on Iranian soil.
Iran is a regional power without whom stability in the region is unachievable. Yet, Trump continues to insist it is Tehran at fault while refusing to recognize that it is US foreign policy and its regional allies Israel, Saudi Arabia and the UAE who are the culprits. Trump insists that Iran must stop asserting its influence in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon while Washington continues to help Saudi Arabia starve the people of Yemen and turns a blind eye to the Saudi Crown Prince’s financing the spread of al-Qaeda and ISIS across the region. The Middle East looks at Trump’s unquestioning support for Israel’s Netanyahu, too, and marvels at US arrogance and hubris.
There is no guarantee that a new deal can be reached with Tehran but if Trump wants to honestly explore realistic changes in Iran’s regional policies he must first be willing to contemplate changes in US policy, something that is unlikely with Netanyahu, Bolton and Pompeo calling the shots, all warmongers averse to diplomacy of any kind.
According to James Baker, then Secretary of State under George U.W. Bush, “You don’t just talk to your friends. You talk to your enemies, as well… Diplomacy involves talking to your enemies, not to reward or appease them…but to find a way out of a protracted stalemate and bring about a solution.”
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