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.”
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
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.
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.”
In an exclusive interview with Voice of America (VOA), the lead US negotiator Wendy Sherman expressed hope that a nuclear deal with Iran is within reach. This is after President Hassan Rouhani’s speech at the UN expressing optimism about the nuclear deal. There is no question that this nuclear deal will significantly change the political environment between Iran and the United States. It will also have a major impact on sanctions, as Wendy Sherman stated, “I have to tell you as soon as we suspend our major sanctions – which will happen very early in the agreement – the world will flood into Iran,” she said. “Many international delegations have already been to Iran and so they will begin to see what they can do. It will be important to show that the agreement is durable, that it will last over a period of many years because we have a long history here that we are trying to solve.” Still, we cannot ignore the domestic pressures on both Rouhani and Obama. They have their own enemies in their political systems, and need to walk the trigger points very carefully.
“In a study released by the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran today,Voices from Iran: Strong Support for the Nuclear Negotiations, prominent members of Iranian civil society expressed their strong support for the P5+1 nuclear negotiations between Iran and the world powers.”