As Iran and the United States inch closer to a nuclear agreement, the Arab states in the Persian Gulf are pressuring the United States to increase security assistance and commit to their political security. President Obama has invited the leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to Washington for a security summit to assure them that a nuclear deal with Iran will not undermine their security. But for these Arab monarchies the enemy they should fear most isn’t Iran but their own people and popular rule. No matter how much military assistance they get from the United States, conventional military capabilities will not help them repress domestic discontent and dissatisfaction. As President Obama elaborated in his interview with Tom Friedman of the New York Times: “The conversations I want to have with the Gulf countries is, first and foremost, how do they build more effective defense capabilities,” the president said. “I think when you look at what happens in Syria, for example, there’s been a great desire for the United States to get in there and do something. But the question is: Why is it that we can’t have Arabs fighting [against] the terrible human rights abuses that have been perpetrated, or fighting against what Assad has done? I also think that I can send a message to them about the U.S.’s commitments to work with them and ensure that they are not invaded from the outside, and that perhaps will ease some of their concerns and allow them to have a more fruitful conversation with the Iranians. What I can’t do, though, is commit to dealing with some of these internal issues that they have without them making some changes that are more responsive to their people.”……One way to think about it, Obama continued, “is [that] when it comes to external aggression, I think we’re going to be there for our [Arab] friends — and I want to see how we can formalize that a little bit more than we currently have, and also help build their capacity so that they feel more confident about their ability to protect themselves from external aggression.” But, he repeated, “The biggest threats that they face may not be coming from Iran invading. It’s going to be from dissatisfaction inside their own countries. Now disentangling that from real terrorist activity inside their country, how we sort that out, how we engage in the counterterrorism cooperation that’s been so important to our own security — without automatically legitimizing or validating whatever repressive tactics they may employ — I think that’s a tough conversation to have, but it’s one that we have to have.”
Since his election, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has maintained an optimistic posture on possibilities of a comprehensive nuclear agreement with Iran—or as he calls it, a win-win deal for all. “I think a final settlement can be achieved … the world is tired and wants it to end, resolved through negotiations.” A large group of Iranian civil society activists have added their voice to diplomacy for support for the nuclear deal. A majority of Iranians support nuclear negotiations. Similarly, in a July 2014 public opinion poll conducted by the Program for Public Consultation and the Center for International and Security Studies at the University of Maryland, 61% of Americans favored a nuclear deal with Iran.
With a Nov. 24th deadline looming on the nuclear talks between Iran and P5+1, the stakes for a nuclear deal could not have been any higher for President Hassan Rouhani of Iran. Since his election as President in June 2013, he has raised popular expectations that the nuclear dispute will be resolved and normalcy will return to Iran. Although Iranians have seen some improvement, hardliners in the parliament have blocked his programs, and his nuclear initiative is his only savior. However, the nuclear issue and the dispute with the United States is so embedded into the fractured domestic politics of Iran that Rouhani has to navigate the dangerous waters of factional politics very carefully
The latest mid-term elections in the United States has led to a Republican majorities in both the Senate and the House. Although this change of power in U.S. Senate could lead to Republicans demanding a a more hawkish foreign policy, particularly with respect to Iran, the current nuclear negotiations between Iran and the United States and the Europeans has gone too far to be reversed now. Of course, with a Nov. 24th deadline looming on the nuclear talks between Iran and P5+1, the negotiators enter the last month of negotiations with an urgency to complete a deal before this deadline. Both President Obama and President Rouhani have bet a huge amount on the success of a nuclear deal with Iran, and long-term engagement that will lead to normalization of relations between Iran and the United States. They have invested a lot to risk a failure, and the stakes could not have been higher for the Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. The urgency of reaching a nuclear deal with Iran, and the conflict with ISIS were the focus of another secret letter from President Obama to Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, his fourth letter to Khamenei since 2008.
November 4, 2014 marks the 35th anniversary of the Hostage Crisis in Iran, a crisis with far reaching consequences for Iran when a group of revolutionary students climbed the walls of the American Embassy to express their objection to the United States granting a medical visa to the Shah of Iran. Instead of a short revolutionary takeover, the Iranian government of Ayatollah Khomeini endorsed the action, surprising the students who had initiated the takeover. This made the takeover into a political occupation that lasted 444 days. Iran lost a lot, its assets were frozen in the U.S., Saddam Hussein saw an opportunity in September 1980 to invade Iran and start an eight war war that cost hundred of thousands of deaths, and since November 1979, Iran has not been able to shake its negative public image.
But as this Special Report by the Economist points out, “after decades of messianic fervour, Iran is becoming a more mature and modern country.” The Rouhani government is determined to end the pariah status of the Islamic Republic because he knows the young Iranian society today is anything but revolutionary today. They want their country to join the international community, stop internal repression of student movements and journalists, and eliminate the painful sanctions that continue to hurt the middle class and the poor.
The declining oil prices is having a huge impact on Iranian economy and Rouhani’s government’s attempt to get sanctions lifted. According this this report, “the decline in crude prices and a looming Nov. 24 deadline for a nuclear accord with the U.S. and other world powers are raising pressure on Rouhani, elected last year on a platform to end Iran’s isolation and revive the economy. Brent fell today as much as 32 cents, or 0.4 percent, to $86.80 a barrel and traded at $86.90 at 7:04 a.m. on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange.”
“If the positive trajectory of the relationship that followed Rouhani’s replacement last year of the Holocaust-denying Mahmoud Ahmadinejad continues, some of the credit will go to a soft-spoken former US ambassador to Czechoslovakia and Venezuela, William Luers.”
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has not shied away from taking on the hardliners in Iran. In the latest factional fight, his minister of Communications firmly rejected the Judiciary’s demand that the government close down mobile messaging services of WhatsApp, Viber and Tango. “Our technical studies indicate that the number of social networks such as WhatsApp, Viber and Tango is so numerous that shutting them down is not the solution,” said Communications Minister Mahmoud Vaezi. Earlier, Hassan Rouhani received a tweet from Twitter’s co-founder, Jack Dorsey, that “he will work to make sure Iranians have access to information globally in what appears to be a reference to reducing online censorship.”
Christopher de Bellaigue has an excellent article in the Guardian outlining how and why a nuclear deal with Iran will benefit the international community. He just returned from a trip to Iran, and like other recent travelers, noticed the changes that have taken place in Iran since Rouhani’s election, and the overall stability of the country in the sea of Middle East turmoil: “No one in their right mind would undertake a comparable journey nowadays inside the borders of any of Iran’s war-torn neighbours: Iraq, Afghanistan, or, a bit further afield, Syria. Iran is the exception along the Middle East’s strategic, resource-rich central belt, a functioning nation state where the central authorities enjoy a monopoly of force, the infrastructure works and the people are overwhelmingly literate and unarmed. Perhaps most significant of all, as capo di tutti capi of the Shia world – wielding clout over its co-religionists in Iraq and Lebanon as well as propping up Bashar al-Assad with military assistance and subsidized oil – Iran could have a vital role in restoring stability throughout Mesopotamia and the Levant.”