Iran Responds to Flexibility, Not Pressure
The U.S. Could Be Less Likely to Uphold a Final Deal Than Iran
Nuclear Talks Aren’t About Trust, But Verification
A Final Nuclear Deal Can Be Struck Within Six Months
The National Iranian American Council, of which CFPA's 2012 Membership Dinner Dr. Trita Parsi is president, issued the following June 16, 2013 Statement regarding the election of Hassan Rouhani to be the next President of Iran:
The election of Hassan Rouhani to be the next President of Iran signals a potential opening for progress on human rights inside Iran as well as nuclear diplomacy. The lone moderate in the race, Rouhani has criticized the securitized environment in Iran and indicated he will work for the release of prisoners of conscience detained after the 2009 elections, including the leaders of the Green Movement, Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, who have been under house arrest since 2011. Rouhani, a former nuclear negotiator under former reformist President Khatami, has also called for a more constructive approach to nuclear diplomacy, sharply criticizing the confrontational approach Iran has adopted under President Ahmadinejad and the current nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili.
While Supreme Leader Khamenei is expected to have the final word on major policy decisions, and conservatives are likely to retain control of many key aspects of Iran's political system, reformists appear to have the backing of the Iranian people and as a result can still prevail in achieving many of their political goals. Many have doubted that the Supreme Leader and his allies would allow a reformist or moderate to win election given the outcome of 2009. If the election of Rouhani stands, the Western narrative stating that Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the IRGC are all-powerful needs to be revisited. It would also signal that the underlying forces of discontent with the direction of the country, repression, and mismanagement that surfaced with the Green Movement in 2009 are still intact as they manifested again with the election of Rouhani.
Rouhani is likely to try to deliver on many of his campaign promises, including to relax the securitized political atmosphere and to take a more constructive approach to nuclear negotiations. But the reaction of the United States and the West could make or break Rouhani and the reformists' ability to push for change in Iran. Particularly, if the Obama administration and Congress persist in amplifying economic sanctions on Iran, it could undermine prospects of a deal before Rouhani is even inaugurated. Now is the time to give forces for moderation in Iran space and put major sanctions relief, including for Iran's oil and financial sectors, on the table.
The Iranians missed a major opportunity in 2009 when they assumed that President Barack Obama would be no different from previous US leaders and then acted according to that assumption. Tehran's non-responsiveness rendered Obama's job to change the relationship more difficult. Washington should be careful not to commit that same mistake.
Vali Nasr: "Rowhani's election should give Congress pause in further intensifying sanctions. Washington need not lift any sanctions yet, but simply being willing to discuss the possibility in exchange for Iranian concessions would be a sea change in the nuclear negotiations. Failing that, nothing will change in the nuclear impasse and the reformist moment could just be that. The ball is in Washington's court."
Paul Pillar: "The Iranian electorate has in effect said to the United States and its Western partners, "We've done all we can. Among the options that the Guardian Council gave us, we have chosen the one that offers to get us closest to accommodation, agreement and understanding with the West. Your move, America."
Trita Parsi: "The Iranians missed a major opportunity in 2009 when they assumed that President Obama would be no different from previous US leaders and then acted according to that assumption. Tehran's non-responsiveness rendered Obama's job to change the relationship more difficult. Washington should be careful not to commit that mistake."
Mark Fitzpatrick: "In October 2003, (Rouhani) agreed to a partial suspension of the enrichment programme, and a year later, to a greater halt. To domestic audiences, he bragged at the time and again in this year's campaign interviews that the suspension was only a tactical ploy to enable the nuclear programme to advance in other ways. This explanation was partly true, but it was gilding the lily. Any deal has to be viewed as a victory for both sides. A further reason for optimism is to be found in last week's Reuters report that Khamenei had given a guarded OK to a request by Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi to engage bilaterally with the United States. There has been little evidence of such flexibility toward engagement to date, but Salehi will surely be kept on after Rowhani takes office on 3 August."
President-Elect Hassan Rouhani: "Relations between Iran and the United States are a complicated and difficult issue. It's nothing easy. This is a very old wound that is there, and we need to think about how to heal this injury. We don't want to see more tension. Wisdom tells us both countries need to think more about the future and try to sit down and find solutions to past issues and rectify things... [Talks] should be based on mutual respect and interests, and should be [held] on equal footing... The Americans must expressly state that they will never interfere in Iran's domestic affairs. Secondly, all rights of the nation need to be recognized by the Americans... Unilateral bullying policies need to be scrapped... [If these conditions are met] the ground will be paved for settlement... But everyone should realize that the future government will definitely defend the rights of the Iranian people. We will never dispense with that. We are prepared to see tensions alleviated. If we see goodwill we can also take some confidence building measures..."
"We have to enhance mutual trust between Iran and other countries... There is a fresh opportunity for interaction on the global level."
Secretary of State John Kerry: "President-elect Rouhani pledged repeatedly during his campaign to restore and expand freedoms for all Iranians. In the months ahead, he has the opportunity to keep his promises to the Iranian people. We, along with our international partners, remain ready to engage directly with the Iranian government. We hope they will honor their international obligations to the rest of the world in order to reach a diplomatic solution that will fully address the international community's concerns about Iran's nuclear program."
White House statement: "We respect the vote of the Iranian people and congratulate them for their participation in the political process, and their courage in making their voices heard. Yesterday's election took place against the backdrop of a lack of transparency, censorship of the media, Internet, and text messages, and an intimidating security environment that limited freedom of expression and assembly. However, despite these government obstacles and limitations, the Iranian people were determined to act to shape their future. It is our hope that the Iranian government will heed the will of the Iranian people and make responsible choices that create a better future for all Iranians. The United States remains ready to engage the Iranian government directly in order to reach a diplomatic solution that will fully address the international community's concerns about Iran's nuclear program.
Pervasive myths, distortions, and oversimplifications continue to distort perceptions about Iran. To confront these myths, the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), together with Just Foreign Policy, has launched Iranfact.org, a site devoted to fact-checking these myths and promoting honest and accurate debate about Iran policy in the U.S.
Myth #1: Iran has fissile material for five nuclear weapons
At the Vice Presidential debate, Congressman Paul Ryan said, “When Barack Obama was elected, they had enough fissile material, nuclear material, to make one bomb. Now they have enough to make five.’ However, Iran does not have any fissile nuclear material that could be used in a nuclear weapon. Iran has quantities of low and medium-enriched uranium, but does not possess weapons-grade uranium, which would be required to build a nuclear weapon.
Myth #2: The U.S. and Israel believe Iran is developing nuclear weapons
The United States intelligence community says Iran has not made the decision to develop a nuclear weapon. Instead, the U.S. intelligence community is concerned that Iran is engaged in a strategy of nuclear hedging developing the capabilities that would be necessary to build a nuclear weapon if such a political decision were made. According to multiple credible media reports, Israeli intelligence agencies agree with the U.S. intelligence community that Iran has not decided to develop nuclear weapons.
Myth #3: An Iranian nuclear weapon is imminent
An Iranian nuclear weapon is not imminent. U.S. and Israeli intelligence assess that Iran is not actively building a bomb, and that it would take Iran at least two to three years to have a deliverable weapon.
Myth #4: Israel and the U.S. consider Iran irrational.
Top Israeli and U.S. officials agree Iran is a rational actor. General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, recently told CNN, We are of the opinion that the Iranian regime is a rational actor. Senior Israeli officials, such as Meir Dagan, the former chief of Israel’s Mossad, have made similarly unambiguous statements. The regime in Iran is a very rational regime, Dagan told CBS News in March.
Myth #5: Israel considers Iran an existential threat
While many media outlets and politicians often state that Iran is an existential threat to Israel, many senior Israeli defense officials argue this simply isn’t true. Prominent Israeli defense and intelligence officials have stated that Iran poses some threat to Israel, but that it is not an existential threat.
About NIAC: The National Iranian American Council (NIAC) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing the interests of the Iranian-American community.
For more information, visit www.niacouncil.org