Obama’s Misconceptions on Iran

Majid Rafizadeh, an Iranian-American political scientist and scholar, is president of the International American Council and serves on the board of the Harvard International Review at Harvard University. Rafizadeh is also a senior fellow at the Nonviolence International Organization based in Washington, DC and is a member of the Gulf project at Columbia University. He can be reached at rafizadeh@fas.harvard.edu. Follow Rafizadeh at @majidrafizadeh.


Hassan-Rouhani1This week, I was invited to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) policy conference, and when listening to Secretary of State John Kerry’s and Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speeches and their major points about the Islamic Republic of Iran, several underlying issues appeared to highlight the Obama administration’s misconceptions and its uninformed foreign policy towards the Mullahs.

One of the crucial misunderstandings and misconceptions of the Obama administration is that it views the current status of American-Iranian rapprochement as similar to the American-Chinese rapprochement in the early 1970s with President Nixon’s trip to Beijing. 

One the fundamental flaws in such an analogy is misunderstanding the character of the policies and political moves of the Iranian leadership. It is crucial to point out that the shift in policy made by Mao Zedong was a strategic one, while the current policies carried out by the Rouhani government and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Al Khamenei are tactical. 

In one of his speeches, Khamenei gave an example of such tactical moves in recent nuclear talks by referring to wrestling (a popular sport in Iran), where sometimes, when the wrestler faces a strong rival, he must show some “heroic flexibility” in order to win the match or survive. Rouhani clearly wrote in his memoir that the negotiations he led 10 years ago during the Khatami era, and the agreement to suspend Iran’s nuclear enrichment for two years, not only did not halt the advancement of the nuclear program, but actually moved the program forward, expanding the centrifuges and nuclear infrastructure in those years. He added that through his policies he was capable of buying time and progressing the nuclear program to 20 percent enriched uranium with thousands of centrifuges.

By tactical shift, I mean that Iran is not looking for any kind of actual policy change or a new era of relations with the United States, Israel, or the West. The Islamic Republic is not attempting to make a fundamental strategic shift to create new ties with the US and Israel, and it is not attempting to shift its animosity. The goal of the Islamic Republic is to make some tactical changes to recover its economy, regain power, buy time and advance its nuclear program.

When these objectives are achieved, all the agreements on the nuclear issues can be reversed, as Iranian authorities have repeatedly said.

First of all, the Obama administration is very determined to focus on diplomatic avenues and push the interim nuclear deal with the Islamic Republic into a permanent nuclear deal.  While there is not an inherent problem in resolving Iran’s nuclear dilemma through diplomatic headways, the risk becomes much higher when the diplomatic avenues and negotiations are carried out in a flimsy, uncalculated, and marginal matter.  

The shortcoming with the current diplomatic negotiations between the P5+1 (the U.S., Russia, France, China, Britain and Germany) and Iran, and the flaw with the Obama administration’s foreign policies regarding the ruling clerics in Iran, is that the final and comprehensive nuclear deal will leave Iran with some paths to becoming a nuclear power and obtaining nuclear weapons.

As a result, the danger of reaching a final deal that gives the Mullahs and Ayatollahs the tools and infrastructure to develop nuclear weapons is much more dangerous than the current situation for several reasons.

Here are some of the consequences of reaching a flimsy permanent nuclear deal:  First of all, an insubstantial permanent nuclear deal will force the international community to lift all the economic and political sanctions that have accumulated as a result of decades of international consensus, sanctions, and Iran’s violations of nuclear enrichment and international standards. Secondly, as the sanctions are lifted, the Islamic Republic is significantly empowered in the regional and global arena economically, politically, and ideologically.

Third, it would be much more difficult to bring the Ayatollahs to the negotiation table once they have recovered their economy, currency value, and political status. The Mullahs will also use the loopholes in the final nuclear deal, as well as their clandestine nuclear sites, to develop nuclear weapons. Iranian leaders and the Supreme Leader have repeatedly pointed out that all these agreements are reversible at anytime.

The Mullahs and Ayatollahs faced tremendous difficulty holding on to power when international sanctions in fact began working. Many years of efforts and sanctions finally brought them to the negotiating table to make tactical shifts and regain their economy, power, and maintain the advancement of their nuclear program. However, as the Islamic Republic was economically and politically desperate, and as decades of sanctions finally yielded results, the Obama administration did not carry out an informed policy plan to seize the opportunity.

In such conditions, where the Mullahs find no other way outside of coming to the negotiating table to retain their power, the Obama administration pushed for a deal that was mainly on the terms set by the Iranian leaders, instead of putting the nuclear terms based on the American and the international community’s terms. And, this continues to be the case for the final nuclear deal as well.

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  • Mahmoud

    AIPAC, puppets of Israel which promotes discriminatory laws and pushes US into war, sucks with Israel.

    • Geoffrey_Britain

      The bonfire calls the candle hot.

    • SCREW SOCIALISM

      Socialists, FAKE anti-war actors, regressive progressives, puppets of islamofascism which practices discriminatory laws on non-Muslims, girls, gays, the wrong kind of Muslim, and push the US into appeasement and dhimmitude, sucks with islamofascism.

  • Geoffrey_Britain

    Obama has no ‘misconception’s about Iran. Nor does he think they’ve now moderated their stance. That’s all a dog and pony show for America’s rubes, otherwise known as low-info liberal voters. Stalin’s “useful idiots”.

    In his Senate confirmation hearings, SecDef Hagel inadvertently let slip Obama’s secret Iranian policy. Containment.

    But containment is a joke because regardless of how effectively Iran is ‘contained’, that will not effect in the least the primary consequence of Iran getting nukes. Which is the spread of nuclear proliferation into unstable third world regimes and other jihadist States. But the real ‘kick in the pants’ is that Obama knows this as does Kerry;
    “the region will be far less stable and far more threatened if Iran were to have a nuclear weapon. It will spur a nuclear arms race. It has risks for greater terrorism. It will be destabilizing.” Kerry said the threat extends beyond the possibility that Iran could actually use the weapon on its enemies, specifically Israel. Iran simply having a nuclear weapon would “spur a nuclear arms race” in the region and could be used to support terrorists groups like Hezbollah, he said. Interview with SecState John Kerry – March 5, 2013

    Obama is purposely facilitating Iran getting nuclear weapons, knowing what the consequences will be. Nuclear proliferation in the ME will result in terrorists getting their hands on nukes. They will use them on us. That will result in the declaration of nationwide martial law. Under martial law, legal precedent exists for the legal suspension of Constitutional provisions. Neither Obama nor a Pres. Hillary Clinton will fail to see or take advantage of the ‘opportunity’ such a crisis offers the left. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out Obama and the left’s game strategy, it just takes a willingness to face the only explanation that fits the facts.

  • YoshiNakamura

    Has anyone bothered to read the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran? Here is an excerpt from the Preamble:

    An Ideological Army
    In the formation and equipping of the country’s defense forces, due attention must be paid to faith and ideology as the basic criteria. Accordingly, the army of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps are to be organized in conformity with this goal, and they will be responsible not only for guarding and preserving the frontiers of the country but also for fulfilling the ideological mission of jihad in God’s way; that is, extending the sovereignty of God’s law throughout the world (this is in accordance with the Koranic verse “Prepare against them whatever force you are able to muster, and strings of horses, striking fear into the enemy of God and your enemy, and others besides them.” [8.60])
    ————————————

    Notice that the armed forces are to be used not only for defense but for offense, to spread the sovereignty of Allah, and that they are to prepare “whatever force you are able to muster”. That includes nuclear weapons. What other country openly declares that its army is to be used for offense???

    Does Obama expect the Ayatollahs to violate their religion and their Constitution?

  • Dyer’s Eve

    ‘From Persia, very near a million’ – Michel de Nostradame. I’ll keep posting this until Iran either desists or is destroyed.

    • SCREW SOCIALISM

      DEATH to the islamofascist regime of iran!

      HANG the ayatollahs!

      LONG LIVE PERSIA!

  • Texas Patriot

    A better question is whether the mullahs of Iran believe that Obama is deceived.

  • T800

    I’ve noticed a trend in the pro-Iran posters;
    first they assert that Iran is only pursuing “peaceful nuclear power” and is in compliance with the NPT.
    Then they go from that disproven position to claiming the “negotiations” are going to insure that Iran can’t develop nuclear weapons.[lol]
    After that fails,they then claim that Iran has a “right” to enrichment and nuclear weapons,and that Iran only needs them for “self-defense” against the US-Israel.[more lol]
    Then they claim that Iran would never(and has never) attack the US.
    After that fails,they return to claim #1. then repeat the cycle over and over.

    some folks are SO “tired of war”,they’re essentially given up,surrendered,because they’re totally unwilling to do what is necessary,instead denying every bit of evidence,every indication that shows Iran is working on nuclear arms.They just can’t face the reality. So they make every weak excuse in the book.
    They have accepted defeat.

  • T800

    Iran’s first use of a nuclear bomb may not be over Israel,but the US,an EMP attack. An EMP attack on the US would set us back to 19th century living conditions we are NOT prepared for,and many millions would die from starvation and disease in the first year. It could mean the end of the US. Iran has been testing SCUD launches from containerships,with HIGH altitude detonations characteristic of an EMP attack,and not usable for attacks with conventional warheads . This type of attack is not needed for Israel,Iran’s IRBMs already can reach Israel. But with the US crippled or destroyed,Iran is free to do as they please,without any other Western nation able or willing to interfere with them.

  • T800

    IMO,Comrade Obama WANTS Iran to develop nuclear weapons. Anything that weakens the US,he’s for.
    “once is accidental,twice is coincidence,three times is enemy action.”
    It’s all part of his efforts to weaken the US economically,politically,and militarily.
    after all,he IS a closet muslim.
    Comrade Obama IS the muslim Manchurian Candidate.
    There’s a reason why,post-college,Comrade Hussein traveled to Pakistan,of all places. it’s not because he was a Christian. There’s a reason why Comrade Hussein was aided in getting into college by Saudi money and influence.