New deal but same old Iran

Friday 24/07/2015
Old slogans die hard

The agreement between Iran and the P5+1 was supposed to regulate Iran’s nuclear aspirations and alleviate concerns in the West, in the Gulf and in Israel about Iran possibly become a nuclear power. In exchange for its cooperation, economic sanctions against Iran would be lifted.
That could have been the turn­ing point between the Islamic Republic’s fractured relations with the West but Iran has continued its anti-Western rhetoric and there is little doubt that it will continue to discreetly pursue its ambitions to acquire nuclear state status.
But was it really a surprise? Not in the least for those who were and still are realists enough not to ex­pect any changes from the current regime in Tehran. Some, including this reporter, have long held the view that Iran is on a preset path as established by the founder of the Islamic Republic. Years ago it became apparent it has remained true to its cause and continued ef­forts to export the revolution.
For the good part of nearly 30 years it has been unsuccessful, un­able to make headway in export­ing a Shia-led Islamic revolu­tion, except in Lebanon, where it reached out to the local Shia community and found receptive ears. However, it wasn’t until the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq and the subsequent dismantlement of the Iraqi military that Iran was able to practically take over Iraq, where it had the support of the local Shia population, long abused by the Sunnis.
Those who expected to see a new approach to geopolitics from Iran, including US President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry, are in for a rude awaken­ing. Either it was pure naïveté on their part or just wishful thinking. Either way they will be terribly disappointed.
The traditional telltale sign of where things are going was clearly visible following the Friday prayers a few days after the signing of the Vienna accords. Speeches deliv­ered by fiery imams in mosques across Tehran were certainly not an encouraging sign of things to come.
Many Western pundits who sup­ported the P5+1 initiative expected that things would change over­night as though a magic wand was waved over the land. Well, they can wave all they want because nothing is going to change in Iran until the mullahs and imams wave goodbye to meddling in politics. And that is unlikely to happen anytime soon.
The underlying message delivered during Friday prayers was that the commitments to the Islamic Revolution and ideals remain unchanged. Following the sermons, the crowds resorted to chanting traditional slogans of hate, screaming “Death to Amer­ica” and “Death to Israel”. That sort of behaviour should really not be expected from a country with which one has just signed a historic deal.
Granted, instant changes from Iran were not expected and the underlying current of the deal rides on hopes that within the next 10 years the country would gradually open up to reforms. Can there be a change of direction in the country’s foreign affairs even in ten years? Short of a counter-revolution, that is very unlikely.
Still, optimists continue to hope to find an ally in Iran to fight the greater threat at the moment and that is the Islamic State (ISIS).
What the United States wants is a dependable force in the Gulf to police the region. So far none of the Arab countries has stepped to the plate, which is why the United States finds Iran attractive in that regard. The only clarity in all of this is that both sides realise that this is not a marriage of love but one of convenience.
The United States and Iran are united in fighting a common enemy, ISIS, in Iraq. But in neigh­bouring Syria, Iran is backing the regime of President Bashar Assad, whom the Americans want to see wave goodbye.
The complexity of Middle East­ern politics is nothing new. Only now it appears to be growing in complexity by the day.