Is there room for diplomacy?

Md. Sharif Hasan
Published : 20:39, Jul 02, 2019 | Updated : 21:45, Jul 02, 2019

Md. Sharif HasanWithout any doubt the latest round of sanctions by U.S. is absolutely counterproductive for an administration that pretends that it’s interested in negotiations to solve trade problems and disputes, it is meant only to target the political leadership of Iran and to try to denigrate Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif. It’s really a signal that this administration isn’t interested in negotiations. Otherwise it would not increase the political price of engagement with the Iranians in ways that would actually render talks almost impossible.
John Bolton says the door is open for Iran for talks at any time. But, how can you maintain a line of dialogue with a country if you’ve sanctioned its Foreign Minister? The reality is that you can’t and that’s something that John Bolton is fully aware of. In fact, in 2017, he wrote an article in the National Interest when he was out of the Trump administration and didn’t have actually much access to the White House. He put out the plan about how to kill JCPOA, the nuclear deal and how to isolate and pressure Iran.
One of those elements he emphasized was his conviction that once the U.S. withdraws from the nuclear deal that the Iranians would not renegotiate it. But the U.S. should talk about the possibility of talks again just as a way of scoring a point on the international scene and basically making the U.S. look like the flexible party and Iran as the inflexible party at fault.
Analysts have drawn attention to the fact that the Trump administration isn’t genuine and serious about negotiations. The President himself is interested but unfortunately he is surrounded by a group of Iran Hawks who are deliberately and step-by-step goading him towards a military confrontation with Iran.
A general view of the Bushehr main nuclear reactor, 1,200 km (746 miles) south of Tehran, August 21, 2010. REUTERS/File PhotoThe reality is that coercive diplomacy is a tool of statecraft that a lot of countries use and the United States because of its dominance in the global financial system uses it a bit too much. The fact IS that the Obama administration used the balance of carrots and sticks, whereas in the case of Trump administration they have put the carrots field on fire and they’re only using sticks. And, even, if they promise some incentives, they’re because of the erratic behavior of this administration. It’ll be entirely unreliable and that’s why they’re not successful in using maximum pressure to advance their agenda be it in the case of Venezuela or in the case of North Korea or in the case of Iran.
The biggest problem that the United States has had with Iran over the past four decades is the fact that it can’t tolerate Iran’s independent foreign policy. The countries in this part of the world from the perspective of Washington are either puppets or pariahs. There’s nothing in between. And, Iran is the only country in this part of the world that can challenge Israel’s maneuvering space and THAT'S intolerable for the United States.
The bottom line? The reason that sanctions are being used is not necessarily for behavior change because as many in this administration have repeatedly said: they don’t believe that Iranian regime is capable of changing its behavior, so they’re in fact after regime change. Now, this again does not apply to President Trump. But, he has boxed himself in a position that sanctions are not going to render Iran more amenable to negotiations or they’re not going to alter Iran’s behavior. And, he’s running out of things to sanction so sooner or later we would get into a stage that we would have no choice other than taking military action which would have disastrous consequences for Iran, for the U.S. and for the entire region.
Md. Sharif Hasan teaches International Relations at University of Rajshahi.

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