Where has this sudden move by IRAN to admit that nuclear weapons should not be a weapon in their military come from? Is it from the recent showdown in Syria where President Assad was trembling (tic) at the thought of military strikes in Syria… Uh, no. I don’t believe military options are the key reason. I think two other options are influencing the Khomenei and the new President in Iran.
The first, often criticized, is the cumulative effect sanctions are having on the population in Iran. Despite Cuba, Venezuela, and North Korea shrugging theirs off, sanctions are finally making an impact in Iran.
After Ahmadenijad’s reelection in 2009, many in the country thought the “election” was fraudulent and rioting ensued across the country (reminder the Supreme Leader selects the President to be voted upon in Iran-not a real free election) Iran’s oil revenue is down 58% and it has been reported that over 50% of the population is having trouble finding enough money for food. This can be directly correlated to decreased fuel subsidies by the Iranian government spiking gasoline prices and runaway inflation on basic necessities and western products. Rouhani was elected on the promise that he would improve the economy and situation for the average Iraninan.. Now he has to deliver.
Where could he possible get the money for this? How about cutbacks or reduction in developing nuclear weapons? This is hugely expensive, especially buying equipment on the global black market, subsidizing North Korea, paying off nuclear scientists, and they burying them into mountainsides. They could save billions of dollars and turn that money back to the country or to the oil infrastructure. If Rouhani can get some sanctions reduced in a deal with the US, even more trade and infrastructure can help his cause. More money also means Iran can increase their foreign aid to their friends across the Middle East, Venezuela, and North Korea. (Perhaps future blog on that topic)
What else is enabling this sudden desire to talk to the US? I believe it’s the sudden reemergence of their long friends the Russians. With Putins team stealing the political limelight with a “save” in Syria, I think the Iranians will use the Russian link for their future negotiations with Kerry. I look to see Russian influence either on inspectors, teams, or even coordinators for verification. Perhaps UN teams allowed as well, but don’t look for any Americans anytime soon own those teams.
Russia also plays a key role in any future UNSC Resolutions or helping remove current ones. What else? I’m sure Iran would be happy to receive their often delayed S300 missile system.
Putin will be for elevating his country to a status so they matter again on the World Stage… All without military might. He is seeking equal status with the US in the Middle East and probably fits in with old realpolitik thoughts from the old days…
Do I think all these happy thoughts on Iran possible? Yes, but it’s not as we haven’t heard this tune before, both in Iran and their soul mates in North Korea. (North Korea was reportedly powering up a reactor this last week that they agreed to shut down a decade ago in return for oil shipments there). I am highly skeptical of these public promises and well have to see what Iran agrees to, and more importantly what inspectors find. In the end nothing should change for sanctions until we see some actual events on the ground in Iran.
Either way, I think we have to give these talks a shot, even if it helps Russia in the near term. Military action in Iran is the last thing we need at this point after multiple Wars the last decade and a budget crisis with a tired military.