By SHAHRIAR SHAHABI
Paltalk News Network
DUBAI - We know that the Obama administration has sent out all the right signals since the president took office in January, 2009. Heck, his sincerity was so overwhelming in his celebratory message to the Iranian people on Norouz (the Persian New Year) that it felt like Iran and the United States have been pals forever. It was a good gesture to winning the hearts and minds of Iranians but then came the strings attached.
The U.S. administration then connected the soft campaign to what was labeled as “transactional diplomacy” which is code for “let’s get down to business”. Fine, the United States wants to befriend Iran and do business. However, anyone who has taken international business 101 will tell you that to engage in a productive, profitable and friendly bilateral trade relations requires prerequisites the most important of which for Iran means having a stable democratic political system.
Now some would argue that America already does business with nondemocratic countries in the Middle East such as Saudi Arabia, but make no mistake, Iran is no Saudi Arabia and even the Saudi’s would tell you today that they are not happy with the nature of their relationship with the U.S. so that’s not the kind of relationship we are talking about establishing between the two countries, at least I hope not.
So, now that U.S.–Iran talks are to get underway, the Obama administration needs to focus its efforts on pushing for a relationship with Iran based on common principles and common values and the only way to achieve this objective in my view is to push for the democratization of Iran.
How the United States should proceed for meeting this objective:
Rather than putting the focus on Iran’s nuclear development and its enrichment program I would argue that the US negotiation team work its way up to that point by addressing the following key points.
a) Calling the government in Tehran on the election fraud. This way the coup regime sitting on the opposite side of the negotiation table will know that the United States is not in this discussion to appease the coup regime and that it does not recognize this government as the legitimate representative of the people of Iran in its present form.
This sets the tone that despite the election results America is serious about engaging with Iran and the Iranian people who want better ties with America and if the coup regime cannot deliver on bridging this relationship, the people of Iran (the green movement) are willing to do so (the chants of down with Russia, down with China and down with the dictator as opposed to death to America which the regime was calling for post June 12th 2009 is a clear indication of the present mood in Iran).
b) Show strength of conviction. The coup government in Tehran believes that the United States has been weakened as a result of the global economic meltdown and its lackluster performances in Iraq and Afghanistan. They have used this propaganda so much for domestic consumption that they actually have come to believe that America is no match for Iran. Therefore, the United States must demonstrate that its political, economic and military will can out last Iran’s mischief if the coup government decides to cause trouble in the region as a means to divert global attention. This again brings the focus back onto Iran and will not allow the coup government of Ahmadinejad to present an alternative new world order model which it seems to do under an Islamic system and life form (this new world order was presented by Ahmadinejad in brief during his speech at the UN general assembly).
c) THIS IS KEY - Demand democratization. Make it clear that as a first step to economic cooperation Iran must a) adhere to human rights laws which means putting into place political and social freedoms as defined by the oxford political dictionary and NOT the regimes interpretation of democracy and social justice, b) democratize its political system to a secular multiparty system as a guarantee for political stability in the country if the United States is going to invest in a long term diplomatic and business relationship with Iran, and c) move towards liberalizing the economy (the break-up of state monopolies). The message should be that America does business best with countries that share the same values and principles as her, and I can tell you from personal experience that Iran and America have a lot in common. And finally,
d) Display sincerity in a win-win strategy. Make it clear that if Iran implements a democratic system America is ready to talk about lifting existing sanctions, helping Iran with economic modernization plans and the development and enhancement of its nuclear plants for peaceful purposes. The Ahmadinejad coup regime MUST understand it has a credibility problem that is in dire both domestically and internationally and until it cleans up its act “transactional diplomacy” will not mean a thing. America must also make one other important point clear and that is the United States is ready to walk away from the negotiation table and take this discussion directly to the Iranian people which would then bear the following consequences to the Ahmadinejad coup government:
a. The denouncement of the Ahmadinejad coup government as the legitimate representatives of the Iranian people
b. The creation of a blockade on Iran’s core industry by placing sanctions on its oil exports and petroleum imports.
c. The blockade all financial assets of the coup regime in foreign banks.
d. Travel restrictions on the coup regimes top 100 people, And
e. Offering moral support to the forces within Iran that are ready to bring about political stability in the country and promote better relations with the free world.
In my view the worst thing America can do now that dialogue with Iran is about to commence is to break off talks and replace it with UN backed sanction without teeth or alternatively allow an Israeli air attack on Iran. Going to war with a people that have great admiration for America and the American people is a tragedy in US Middle East foreign policy and if that does happen the United States will have handed Iran over to the Russians and the Chinese in a platter and diminished its influence in the region forever.
Shahriar Shahabi is a Middle East political strategist and Paltalk News Network correspondent