Home > A look > Week’s Outlook: The Last Chance

Week’s Outlook: The Last Chance

Houshang Asadi

As winter turned into spring, international community’s “last chance” warning to Iran turned into the “final chance” for the country to address the controversial nuclear issue.

True to form, Hashemi Rafsanjani suddenly reappears on the Iranian scene and changes the game at its last moment. Rather than using the term “Great Satan,” which is how the Iranian regime officially labels the US, he calls America the “greatest power” in the world and rather than talking of war with it says there should be negotiations.

So everything returns to this central issue: Iran’s relations with the US. This is a problem that has been inherited from the founder of the Islamic regime, ayatollah Khomeini. He compared the relationship between the two countries to that of a wolf and a sheep. Today, everything coming out of Tehran indicates that Khomeini’s successor continues to view Iran as the sheep which could be swallowed up any time by the wolf.

But phobia over a foreign power that could at any time change the regime in Tehran is not something unique to the Islamic republic. The last Shah of Iran had similar fears about the Soviet Union, and because of which he lost his throne. While the Soviet Union was Iran’s neighbor during the ancient regime, today the source of regime phobia has in fact encircled the country.

The Shah’s ambitions, which were rooted in Persian chauvinism, have given way to the ideological ambitions of ayatollah Khamenei which are rooted in Shiism.

But the Shah foreswore his throne without a fight. Till now, the leader of the Islamic regime has declared that he will not be removed without a fight. His views are primarily religious rather than political. If he wins this battle, then he will become the leader of the Islamic; if he is killed then he will remain the eternal martyr. Ayatollah Khamenei who has been groomed in the Islamic fundamentalist philosophy of seyed al Qotb will emerge the victor no matter what. In addition, he will not be subject to the same fate that confronted most of the country’s modern rulers, except ayatollah Khomeini. The three last kings of the two dynasties in the last 100 years of Iran’s history all died outside the country in bitterness. Dr Mohammad Mossadegh, the nationalistic leader died while he was under house arrest. In this gloomy picture, one cannot brush aside the fate of the dreadful fate of the dictators in the region as Syria’s Bashar Assad struggles to keep his power.

But Iran’s salvation appears to be completely different. Taking up even the Nowruz message that US President Barrack Obama sent to Iran can change the picture from a possible hell to a breakthrough.

But ayatollah Khamenei’s remarks and those of his close generals, the empty handed return of Turkish Prime Minister to Ankara last week, the stronger support for Syria, and the harsh attacks by Iran’s leader of Hashemi Rafsanjani all indicate that the order that the leader has issued to the whole system is nothing but “resistance.”

Israel sees war as the only response to this resistance. The international coalition that the US has formed views war as the final choice and at least for now stresses negotiations and diplomacy. A war however is not limited to just a military strike. Wars usually take place on suitable economic foundations and have public support.

This phase or type of war has already been raging and this week it attained new heights. SWIFT banking services to Iran will be completely stopped. More sanctions are added to the already extensive existing measures even as official sanctions have not yet started. Oil exports are already falling and Iraq has replaced Iran as OPEC’s second largest oil producer. Shipping, insurance and car manufacturing companies are also ending their economic operations in Iran or their cooperation with the country.

Three important international gatherings have taken place in the first two weeks of the Iranian New Year (starting from March 20, 2012) in Seoul, Istanbul and Baghdad in which Iran has been absent. The Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan flies directly to Tehran from one of these conferences. It is still not clear whether he took a special message to ayatollah Khamenei but it is clear that he went home angry and empty handed. A few days after he left Tehran, Erdogan issued a strong and unprecedented statement against the Islamic republic of Iran accusing it of deception rather than engaging in diplomacy.

Turkey – one of the important three Islamic countries in the region – is rapidly distancing from Iran. Its positions are now closer to Saudi Arabia, the other Islamic power in the region and the world’s largest oil exporters. Turkey is finalized to be the first location for missile defense installation as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Saudi Arabia’s king agree on the UAE as the second.

Regional religious and political competitions and rivalries intensify to confront the “resistance” policies drawn up and guided by ayatollah Khamenei. Thus comes about a completion encirclement of Iran, as a country with a distinct history, language, religion and culture in this region.

In the Persian language there is a saying that translates into what happens in the year is displayed in spring, which is the first season of the Iranian New Year starting on the first day of spring every year.

This year’s spring is full of dangers. Washington officially says that the April 13 talks between Iran and the great powers is the “last chance” to avoid war. But Iran’s last minute positions suddenly throw a veil of ambiguity over the talks altogether. The quibbling now is over Istanbul or Baghdad as the venue for the talks, as the Islamic republic pursues its policy of killing time which stems from its deliberate policy of creating confusion. The message by a group of clerics that weapons of mass destruction are illegal in Shiism are the practical response and replacement for direct talks, a model that has been around for the past decade over the nuclear issue.

The central position of the Islamic republic can be ascertained from the words of its two senior officials, even though none are officially in any regime authority. Mohammad Javad Larijani, the principle architect of Iran’s foreign policy and a member of the very influential Larijani family, announces in Geneva that it is possible to have “complete transparency” in Iran in return for “cooperation” with the West. Hossein Mousavian, the former nuclear program negotiator who lives in the United States clarifies this “cooperation” as: “The West must stop talking about regime change in Iran.”

So everything depends on ayatollah Khamenei’s phobia: Fears of regime change by the US. Efforts to build a nuclear weapon too are for the purpose of gaining leverage in talks with the West to ensure the survival of the Islamic regime in Tehran.

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