Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Iran’s Nuclear Diplomacy: Ramifications of the new Reshuffle

Iran’s Nuclear Diplomacy: Ramifications of the new Reshuffle

Ali Asghar Kazemi

December 14, 2010


If somebody ventures to delve into the decision making process in Iran’s foreign ‎policy, he will probably end up to frustration. Thus, the rationale behind sudden ‎firing of the incumbent foreign minister, while he was in a diplomatic mission ‎abroad, and the appointment of Iran’s chief Nuclear Agency in his place, shall remain ‎in shadow for some time. The truth of the matter is that the overall decision making ‎process in Iran in domestic and foreign affairs does in no way follow any established ‎rule or pattern. In other words, one might say that it is very personal, rudimentary, ‎and emotional.‎

One of the major impediments of Iran’s foreign policy, more than three decades ‎after ‎the establishment of the Islamic Republic, seems to be the continuing ‎persistence on ‎its revolutionary nature. In fact, this feature has created a ‎strong barrier before Iran’s ‎national objectives and aspirations in setting clear ‎criteria for determining friends ‎and foes. This does not suggest however that ‎the same quandary is settled in ‎domestic sphere. Perhaps many unfortunate ‎events and vicissitudes during the ‎lifespan of the Islamic regime so far are ‎geared to this very important dimension of ‎the revolutionary Iran.‎

Nevertheless, when states choose to engage in interactions with their peers, ‎they ‎must have a lucid definition of their ends and means, a realistic ‎assessment of their ‎partners and above all a faithful commitment to certain ‎primordial standards (rules ‎of the game) in international relations. Indeed ‎revolutions have their own ‎peculiarities and manners and do not necessarily ‎follow conventional norms and ‎expected behavior. They usually have a ‎tendency to challenge the status quo and even ‎alter those rules. Thus, many ‎states prefer not to be in love with revolutionary ‎regimes which by nature have ‎a propensity to be rejectionist than receptive.‎

The problem of not being able to distinguish between its ideological concerns ‎and ‎vital national interests has impeded the revolutionary Iran to identify its ‎friends and ‎foes and this has almost paralyzed Iran’s diplomacy during recent ‎nuclear crisis. ‎While international pressure was gradually increasing in order ‎to push it to stop all ‎nuclear activities, Iran was helplessly looking for friends ‎here and there in order to ‎get some support for its intransigent position. To ‎this end, a number of lucrative deals ‎were offered to some potential partners,‎ ‎ ‎but, at the critical moment when Iran ‎needed their help, they turned to its ‎opponents.‎ Russia and China are two exemplary ‎cases that prove this argument. ‎

Iranian leaders should not be surprised by this unfortunate experience. Indeed, ‎this is ‎the golden rule of the game in international relations; states only have ‎permanent ‎interests and no permanent friends or foes. Yet, an intelligent and ‎rational foreign ‎policy should put the right emphasis at any particular moment ‎on the means and ‎leverages it has on its potential friends in order to neutralize ‎or bypass the negative ‎impacts of its presumed foes’ actions and decisions. ‎When a state puts all of its eggs in ‎one basket, it may soon end up with ‎unpredictable situations in which it should ‎sacrifice all at once. No diplomacy ‎that would stake everything on mere rhetoric and ‎intimidation or concessions ‎deserves to be called intelligent.‎

While the conservative government and policy makers in Iran persist on a ‎return to ‎revolutionary slogans of the regime and do everything to show this ‎feature, the ‎international community seems quite alarmed with the ‎development. Thus, most ‎states are reluctant to engage in deep interaction ‎with a nation defying the prevailing ‎norms. This is not to suggest that those ‎norms and rules of the game are necessarily ‎ethical, just or fair.‎

The mere fact that the newly appointed in charge of foreign ministry comes from a ‎nuclear background in Iran may suggest that the government is sending a somber ‎signal to the West and the rest of the international community that it has no ‎intention to soften its intransigence on the nuclear issue and that this latter is on the ‎forefront of Iran’s foreign policy. ‎

But, the truth of the matter is that this reshuffle seems to stem rather from a ‎personal and emotional grudge of the hard-line president vis-à-vis the outgoing ‎minister and should not be construed as a fundamental change in the decision ‎making process in foreign policy,. Since, neither the criteria for the nuclear objectives ‎in the overall national interests nor the actual pattern of negotiations are to be ‎expected to follow a professional and rational pattern devised by the foreign ministry. ‎Thus, those who eventually expect a breakthrough in the future round of 5+1 meeting ‎with Iran next January in Istanbul, Turkey are giving up to illusion./‎