by Dr. Antonio Stango
With each passing day, it is becoming even clearer that the Iranian regime is unwilling to give up on its dangerous nuclear ambitions. As P5+1 countries (US, UK, France, China, Russia and Germany) attempt to reach a nuclear deal with Iran, the latter is busy oppressing the Iranian people and threatening the region and the world as usual. The proposed deal, which would allow mullahs in Iran to maintain a certain nuclear threshold and retain technology, has already been rejected by several actors, including the US Congress, which believe that the nuclear program ought to be shut down completely to prevent the regime from developing nuclear weapons. The regime’s claim that the nuclear program is primarily for civilian purposes should fool no one.
In his latest address, “Supreme Leader” Ali Khamenei has said, “The enemy is using the lever of sanctions to the hit and their goal is to stop our progress. If we allow them to dictate to us on the nuclear issue, they will still keep the sanctions in place because what they are against is the very foundation of our revolution.” Well, one can hardly guess which kind of “progress” he was speaking about – perhaps in torturing and executing people, while imposing a medieval “Islamic State” long before ISIS.
Nevertheless, he added, “If sanctions are to be the way, the Iranian nation can also do it. A big collection of the world’s oil and gas is in Iran, so Iran if necessary can hold back on the gas that Europe and the world is so dependent on.” These comments reveal that the regime is growing increasingly desperate, as threatening to cut gas exports does not look a wise step. On the contrary, the ayatollahs can hardly afford to do that. Sanctions have taken quite a toll on Iran’s economy, and only some relief from them has been given when the talks were initiated. The falling oil prices have further damaged the economy as Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries refuse to cut down on oil production despite Iranian regime’s requests.
Hassan Rouhani’s government and so-called hardliners at home including the “Supreme Leader” have been playing good cop / bad cop with western negotiators. While Foreign Minister Javad Zarif pretends to be a reasonable, moderate face of Iran, the hardliners at home raise havoc in order to tell the democratic states that they should cooperate with the so-called ‘moderates’ or face the uncompromising hardliners. This strategy may have impressed the Obama administration, which has been too eager to buy into Rouhani’s “moderate” credentials, but others are not at all convinced and rightly so.
The fact that the regime is desperate doesn’t mean that it’s strong nor that it should be granted what it seeks. Negotiators must ensure that only a deal which leaves it incapable of developing a nuclear bomb in the future is put on the table, while the regime must be compelled to make a simple choice: give up on the bomb or face additional sanctions.
Dr. Antonio Stango is the President of the Helsinki Watch in Italy