Baku, Azerbaijan, Feb. 25
By Saeed Isayev - Trend:
After Iran and the P5+1 group reached an agreement regarding Iran's nuclear status on Nov. 24, the Islamic Republic agreed to curb some of its nuclear activities for six months in return for some relief on the sanctions imposed by the international community.
Following this change in policy, international companies started expressing their interest in doing business with Iran once again. Iran, in turn, continues to try and draw in foreign companies, encouraging them to return, invest, and receive benefits.
The advice from the U.S. on the other hand to foreign companies is not to get too excited over what might appear to be positive outcome in the negotiations. As cautioned Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Sherman last Feb. 4, "Iran is not open for business."
Explained the State Department official; "Since sanctions relief is temporary, quite limited and quite targeted." Sherman also warned that the US told the companies who want to start dealing with Iran again that "they are putting their reputations, themselves and their business enterprises at risk..."
Teaching fellow of the Department of Politics and International Studies of SOAS (University of London), Dr. Shirin Shafaie believes that to understand and assess current US approach towards Iran and the most recent nuclear deal, one should consider the wider historical context of US-Iran relations.
"The official policy of the United States towards Iran has been one of control and containment at least ever since the 1953 CIA-MI6 engineered coup d'état in Iran. The US (and Britain) succeeded in maintaining control over Iranian oil resources but also benefited from massive arms sales to the shah of Iran which made the Pahlavi monarchy a nominal, yet truly dependent, regional military power (Nixon's Twin Pillar Doctrine). Much of this profitable trade was justified based on the pretext of the threat of communist expansion in the region," she said.
Shafaie said that at the time the US did not have any problems with Iran's nuclear program.
"In fact the Iranian nuclear program was established as part of the American Atoms for Peace program. The concerns that the US and its major European allies level against Iran's nuclear program today simply did not exist prior to the 1979 Islamic Revolution," she said.
"This suggests that the US main concern is not the nature of Iran's nuclear program, but rather the nature of Iran's political leadership and whether Iranian leaders pursue the country's national independence and sovereignty or submit the nation to the US will in return for nominal partnership but real military, political, and economic dependency," Shafaie said.
She went on to add that accordingly, it is in the wider context of the US policy towards post-revolutionary Iran that the current statements by US officials regarding the new nuclear deal and sanctions relief should be assessed.
"In the 1980s, the United States supported Saddam Hussein's war efforts against Iran in order to contain Iran's rising revolutionary power in the region. During the 1990s, both Iran and Iraq were contained under Clinton's Dual Containment Policy. Indeed one can track back the rationale for the US (and EU) most recent unilateral sanctions against Iran to the 1990s when the Iranian nuclear program had not yet been made into an "issue" or "crisis"," she said.
"In short, control and containment have been constant aspects of the US foreign policy towards Iran; however, the nature of accusations and the pretext for the overarching interventionist policy of the US in Iran have evolved over time: from the threat of communist expansion in the 1950s, to the threat of the export of the Islamic revolution, and most recently the nuclear scare," Shafaie said..
Coming back to what Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman said with regard to companies considering doing business with Iran, Shafaie said her comments are perfectly in line with the US historical policy towards Iran.
"Mrs. Sherman is trying to make clear to these companies that the US is not interested in making a genuine deal with Iran; that her country has no intention of acknowledging and respecting Iranian national independence and sovereignty," Shafaie said. "Therefore she is politely asking them not to get too excited about the US tactical and most probably short-term change of attitude vis-à-vis Iran."
"Perhaps she is giving them clues as what is to follow the recent nuclear deal, i.e. "temporary, quite limited and quite targeted" sanctions relief in return for long-term limitations on Iran's nuclear energy program," Shafaie noted. "Moreover, the Western coercive measures are likely to continue until the day when Iran's national independence and by extension its indigenous nuclear energy program become virtually non-existent."
Shafaie said that in other words Mrs. Sherman might be warning businesses about the long duration of this process which will nevertheless need to contain short episodes of seemingly genuine negotiations, even some initially promising deals, in order for the process to be sustainable in the long term.
"Thus, according to the US government, these momentarily episodes should not be mistaken for a real change in the US approach towards Iran and the American wider agenda for the region," she said.
"Having said that, I do not think that the US government will be very successful in deterring international companies from doing business with Iran for much longer," she suggested. "The US is simply not in a position to dictate who can do what throughout the world."
Shafaie went on to add that in a globalized and closely interconnected world that is witnessing the rapid rise of alternative economic, political, and cultural power houses, the US is no longer in a position of military and economic supremacy.
"We are already witnessing ever growing economic and cultural ties between Iran and a range of countries who do not feel obliged to follow US extra-territorial and quite unreasonable demands that are all but beneficial to their own national interests," she said. "They understand too well that the US quarrel with Iran has nothing to do with "international" peace and security, but is a question of US dominance and control over Iran and the wider region, and vis-à-vis the ever growing influence of other great powers, e.g. China."
"These companies conduct their own research and analysis and do realize that their loss will surely be someone else's gain," she said.
The U.S. and its Western allies suspect Iran of developing a nuclear weapon - something that Iran denies. The Islamic Republic has on numerous occasions stated that it does not seek to develop nuclear weapons, using nuclear energy for medical researches instead.
In the end only time will tell who was right and who was not.