Trump’s way out of Iran issue lies out of bilateral issues
Hamid R. Gholamzadeh
Days, after Iranian forces downed an intruding American drone over the Iranian airspace, the stories of latest developments and stances of the two sides, are still making the headlines across the world. Third parties are inviting both Iran and the United States to show restraint and deescalate the tension. Whereas the first news released on the earliest hours on Thursday wreaked sort of havoc, increasing concerns over eruption of any war in an already volatile region, further details coming outcast a light on the events proving showing how the shooting has apparently prevented a disastrous war.
Commander of Aerospace Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Amir Ali Hajizadeh, clarified that Iran had also detected another manned p8 flight and could have targeted it if it wanted. Moreover, contrary to American claims that the Global Hawk drone was over international waters and out of the Iranian airspace, more and more details are being released by Iran giving accurate coordinates of the route the drone went and proving Iran’s right to react to the violation of its territorial integrity. President Trump has softened his tone, and appreciated Iran for not targeting the other aircraft – by the way, IRGC’s history shows the reaction to the P8 aircraft could have been landing and arresting the crew. American media are gradually casting doubt on US claims and siding with Tehran’s evidence of the intrusion.
The map of drone’s navigation shows how long and how far the Global Hawk has gone into the Iranian airspace and removes any doubt about deliberate intrusion; it seems that the US has been trying Iran’s defense capabilities and resolve and it has surely received a tough answer. Either a test of Tehran’s reaction or even an accidental intrusion, the outcome is a blow to Trump Administration’s wishes for negotiations with Iran!
Over a year ago, President Trump withdrew from the 2015 Iran Deal known as JCPOA after long blaming Obama for a ‘bad deal’ with Iran and has been campaigning for a so-called better deal with Iran. The approach is because of US regional allies such as the UAE, Saudi Arabia and of course the Israeli regime who are dictating American foreign policy by money and influence.
In his recent interview with NBC’s Meet the Press, Donald Trump said that he is ready to negotiate with Iran without any preconditions and his only aim is to ban Iran from access to nuclear weapons. This has actually been the same reason previous administration had sat at the table for; yet Iran has always denied any will to obtain an atomic bomb, calling it Haram, forbidden by Islam, so it has had no problem discussing measures to assure the world in that regard as it did in 2015 deal and has been approved by the IAEA for several times.
Four years after the deal has been signed by all parties, Iran is the only side practically abiding by its commitments and yet not benefitting from it as it was supposed to.
To Iran, it logically makes no sense to renegotiate a deal which was clinched after years of difficult talks, for the same reasons and with the same sides and particularly with an actor which has simply left the deal for no reason. If Trump’s claim is true and he only seeks to prevent Iran from a nuclear weapon, he simply needs to return to the JCPOA as soon as possible, before Iran begins to leave the deal by the end of its 60-day ultimatum to European sides.
Yet, based on words by Trump and other White House officials, to Washington and its regional allies, a good deal is one which contains Iran’s missile capabilities. And that’s why the recent incident is a blow to all Trump’s dreams of deal with Iran. Violation into Iran’s airspace with spy drone escorted by another aircraft proved to the Iranians and world that how crucial Tehran’s missile program is to its security, therefore non-negotiable.
Ayatollah Khamenei has reiterated several times that Tehran will not negotiate over ‘its missile program and defense might’ and will not negotiate with ‘this man’ referring to Donald Trump. And now this resolve is reinforced by recent developments and even slightest hopes of the Americans for talks over missiles are totally obliterated now.
On the eve of election campaigns and all the debates and competitions, given the domestic politics challenges Trump is already facing, he desperately needs an achievement in foreign policy.
Once his agenda was to undermine anything that could be considered as Obama’s achievement or legacy in foreign policy, but now he has no choice but to provide a replacement for what he has rejected so harshly. With naïve approaches and a divided foreign policy team, Trump administration has failed in all plans it has launched towards North Korea, Venezuela, China, Russia and of course Iran.
With election debates around the corner, one shared stance from all Trump rivals is blaming him for tearing the JCPOA and stepping out of the deal. Iran has also said that any proposals for negotiations can only be possible to consider after the US has returned back to the deal and has fulfilled its commitments according to the deal. Therefore, if Donald Trump seeks reelection, he surely needs this achievement and Iran can be a good choice, only and only if he realizes the appropriate path he needs to take.
Returning to the JCPOA is a step many democratic candidates are already promising and seems to be the precondition for any further steps either by Trump or any successor. If Trump wants to win the Iran card, he needs to go the same way Barack Obama once began to step on in his early months at the White House but failed to continue due to miscalculations of his administration. Soon after coming to power as 44th president of the United States, Barack Obama realized that any regime change policy or economic sanctions against Iran are doomed to failure, as they had all failed for nearly three decades.
According to those familiar with the content of the letter and based on what Ayatollah Khamenei has mentioned in a couple of occasions, Barack Obama had written a humble letter recognizing the Islamic Republic’s integrity and independence and the peaceful nuclear rights. The letters were supposed to lead to an end to aggressions and probably an improvement of relations between the two countries IF Barack Obama was not deceived by the greedy perspective of regime change due to 2009 post-election unrests. As Chair of US House Armed Services Adam Smith admitted last weekend, Maximum Pressure policy will not bring Iran to its knees and will fail as all the so-called crippling sanctions by Trump’s predecessors through last 40 years did fail to defeat the Islamic Republic.
Rapprochement with Iran can be a feasible scenario if he acknowledges the fact that Iran is a regional power and any further escalation of tensions and conflicts can bear no fruit other than a full-fledged war with disastrous consequences for the whole world.
Given the recent tensions and developments in the region, even a surgical attack or limited strike by the United States or its allies will be responded to at least the same level and the retaliations would snowball into a huge catastrophe; all because both sides need to save face and prevent discreditation by inaction. So, in order to find a ground for any possible rapprochement, Trump needs to, first, return to the JCPOA to show, not only Iran but also the whole world, that he can be a rational actor and a negotiable side; second, find something outside the bilateral issues to work with Iran indirectly.
This can be cooperation with Iran to find out a way for Saudi Arabia and UAE to get out of Yemen without losing more face. In this way, he can sell it to public opinion as resolution of the most tragic humanitarian crisis of the century and also supporting its allies out of calamity. This can also address efforts at the Congress to prevent the US from any kind of involvement in Yemen War.