Understanding iranian foreign policy - the case of iranian nuclear program

5 Maj 2015
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5 Maja 2015, Comments 0

Piše: Emir Hadžikadunić


This paper examines the complexity of the Iranian foreign policy through the case of Iranian nuclear program and analyzes foreign policy orientations of the last three Iranian presidents, Mohammad Khatami, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Hassan Rouhani in dealing with the international community in pursuing its nuclear program. This assessment would not be complete without reference to the Iranian supreme leader Ali Khamenei who is the most
powerful political authority. This paper also examines Iranian foreign policy expectations with various theories of international relations as to identify the most dominant or the most consistent policy orientation. Its aim is also to strengthen realist and power-based explanations that have dominated the discourse on the Middle Eastern in general and Iranian foreign policy in particular. In this context, a number of questions will be addressed here. To what extend was Iranian negotiation with the international community over its nuclear program consistent throughout these three presidencies? What has changed, if anything, from Iranian foreign policy perspective and why? Can Iranian foreign policy behavior on this specific topic and in this specific time be explained through any international relations theory? The methods employed in answering these questions are largely structured around ethnographic research methodology and my personal diplomatic experience. In addition, a chronological account and comparative approaches will be used to analyze foreign policy discourse and the assessment of key decision makers.

The Iranian foreign policy could be analyzed through different perspectives and case studies. In fact, many academic attempts have been made to refer the Iranian foreign policy to existing international relation theories. Iranian nuclear program is one of those cases that could draw additional light into the complexity of Iranian foreign policy behavior and there are several reasons for this assessment. First of all, it has remained as an important diplomatic topic on the international agenda that lasted since the Islamic Revolution of 1979. Second, it particularly exposed Iranian foreign policy decision-makers to their western
counterparts in the last decade. Third, like no other topic, it draws a light into different, some have stated, conflicting foreign policy perceptions of existing Iranian establishment. Three last Iranian presidents have been involved in this case in different political and regional circumstances and different negotiating frameworks with the international community. These circumstances and their opposing views and actions have also provided an important analytical ground to reveal tendencies in Iranian diplomacy. Mohammad Khatami is regarded as the Iran’s first reformist president who based his diplomatic efforts
on dialogue with the international community. His cabinet has attempted to find a compromising solution with the troika of the European Union at the time of Iraqi crisis with an aim to build confidence with the West and to promote Iranian openness. Additional goal was to prevent bringing Iran’s nuclear case to the UN Security Council while strong US military presence was increasing in the neighborhood. While dialogue, compromise and confidence building reflected new foreign policy style, the latter goal reflected rather true
national interest of his country. To add some complexity, his policies of openness led to
repeated clashes with the conservative Islamists from the Iranian establishment. This may
have reflected double track approach of the latter. At the beginning of his first presidential term Mahmoud Ahmadinejad changed
immediately this reformist course and made it sound more populist and nationalistic. In
the meantime, political and security considerations in the region have changed to favor
Iranian position. As evidence suggested, official Tehran had other national interests to
pursue. In a speech to students in Mashhad, Ahmedinejad was quoted as saying that Iran’s
conditions had changed completely as it had become a nuclear state and could talk to other states from that stand. In the meantime, new multilateral negotiating framework has been designed as the US government decided to step in. Circumstances and expectations have changed once again at the end of his presidency.
The evidence has suggested that economic sanctions were becoming unbearable
and political isolation was increasing in Iran in 2011-2013. This might have caused yet
another shift in Iranian foreign policy approach. New Iranian president, a relative moderate
cleric, has been the Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) for 16
years. Hasan Rouhani has been involved as close associate of the supreme leader Khamenei
and key nuclear negotiator of his reformist predecessor. In this regard, he looked like
trustworthy option for change. Rouhani also promised to promote greater openness of the
Islamic Republic. He went as far as talking to president Obama directly over the phone,
the diplomatic move that was unbelievable in the past. As time has repeated itself, Rouhani
has also run into fierce resistance from hard-liners who were opposing his pragmatic
ideas. It is important to note that the office of the president is not directly responsible
for the nuclear negotiation. It is instead set by the Supreme National Security Council
(SNSC). SNSC includes two representatives appointed by the Iranian supreme leader Ali
Khamenei, military officials, and other executive, judicial, and legislative representatives.
In this regard, Ali Khamenei has been playing a critical role in direction of the Islamic
Republic of Iran.  Several examples of his political moves were very illustrative. Khamenei broke
all illusion of the West by stating that Iran is not Soviet Union and that Khatami is not
Gorbacov (Hefner, 2005). This has also been evident during the tumultuous 2009 presidential
elections, the outcome of which was determined by Khamenei’s decisive support
of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The third striking example is when Khamenei endorsed
Rouhani and allowed his administration to have direct contacts with American
administration on the very top.
A Survey of Iranian Nuclear Issue
It has been the Iranian monarch Reza Shah Pahlavi who initiated the national nuclear program
in 1960s. Evidence has suggested that governments of the United States supported
Iranian nuclear program from the very beginning and Israel from 1977. The Tehran Nuclear
Research Center, supplied by the United States, opened in 1967. It was equipped with
5-megawatt nuclear research reactor called the Tehran Research Reactor (TRR), fueled by
highly enriched uranium. Iran signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in 1968
and the Parliament ratified it in February 1970. The process of Uranium enrichment was
allowed under this treaty. Few years later, the president Ford was quoted as expressing his
support in principle for the shah’s plan to develop a full-fledged nuclear power program
to diversify Iran’s energy sources. The Iranian involvement in the nuclear program did not bring any special diplomatic
or security consideration in 1960s or 1970s, neither by the United States nor by Israel.
The Iranian revolution, however, brought different perceptions of the Program in 1979.
Due to the regime change, nuclear dossier of Iran has also changed and became important
security issue. Golamreza Jusefi, former Iranian ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina,
has talked about American shift from fully fledged support to isolation of his country in an
interview for the local Bosnian press in February 12, 2012. Germany has also withdrawn
from building six nuclear reactors, two of them in Busher in 1979. It signed this agreement
with Iranian authorities in 1976.
Imam Khomeini wrote that Iranians must stand on their own feet after war with
Iraq (Baqer, 2009.) Iran was particularly vulnerable to chemical weapons used by Iraqi
forces. Some foreign dignitaries understood Khomeini’s statement as a call to develop
non-conventional weapons. Opponents of this argument are often quoting Khomeini’s
fatwa by which he disapproved building nuclear weapons in his country. Since February
2003, Iran’s program for constructing the complete cycle for producing enriched Uranium
has been the subject of intense international debates. Authorities from Tehran strongly
advocated that it was their international right to pursue civil nuclear energy, not for any
kind of the military purposes. The last three Iranian presidents have been involved in this
issue during tense negotiation with the international community, particularly the European
Union and the US government. The United States suspected that Iran might divert from civil to military component
and produce nuclear weapons. European governments were concerned that Iran’s
nuclear program could set off a spiral of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East and finally
kill off the Non-Proliferation Treaty (Leonard, 2005). Israel in particular and other regional
countries in general feared that Iranian nuclear case will change existing balance of
power in Iranian favor and bring about new nuclear proliferation. In fact, Iran and Western
countries have made various diplomatic up-s and down-s over possible deal, from easing
the tension and reaching the point of compromise from one side to international isolation,
sanction and war games to the other, never crossing the red line on either side. At the latest
stage of the negotiations Iran held its first bilateral talks in decades with the United States
in a major step towards concluding a comprehensive nuclear deal with the West. Several
discussion rounds at the level of foreign ministers took place in Geneva and Wien in 2014,
the latest in November this year.
Phase of Iranian Foreign Policy As reflected through Iranian nuclear dossier in the last 11 years, three different
phases could be distinguished in Iranian foreign policy behavior. The first phase was
linked with the second mandate of Khatami presidency with particular attention to the
period of 2003 – 2005. At that specific time, we have witnessed serious and open dialogue
and near compromise with EU troika on the diplomatic surface. The second phase was
the period of nuclear populism and nationalism of Ahmedinejad in both of his presidential
mandates (2005-2009 and 2009-2013). This also included unsuccessful negotiations with
the Security Council (plus Germany) that ended with fourth round of international sanctions
and toughest isolation of the Islamic Republic of Iran ever. Finally, the third phase
came with the election of reformist president Rouhani in 2013. This phase reset Iranian
foreign policy and increased hope in diplomatic solution.
Towards Dialogue and Double Track Approach
Iranian authorities and the European Union Troika have intensively tried to find common
ground over Iranian nuclear program from 2003 – 2005 with each side pursuing its own
foreign policy agenda. Former Iranian president Khatami advanced the policy of dialogue
and mutual agreement with the international community. According to Thaler, Nader and
Chubin (2010) his reformist camp believed that stabilization policy of decreased confrontation
would secure achievements of Islamic revolution. Iran is a signer of the Nuclear
Non-Proliferation Treaty, which president Khatami said ensures that member nations have
the right to develop peaceful nuclear technology. His administration managed to skillfully
handle the nuclear dossier by negotiating compromise with European powers.
Under Khatami’s presidency, Iran signed the Sa’d Abaad agreement with the European
troika in 2003. According to this agreement, “the Iranian authorities reaffirmed
that nuclear weapons have no place in Iran’s defense doctrine and that its nuclear program and activities have been exclusively in the peaceful domain.” The Iranian Government
has also decided “to engage in full co-operation with the IAEA to address and resolve
through full transparency all requirements and outstanding issues.” Following this path,
Iran suspended its Uranium enrichment program under the new agreement with the EU
troika in November 2004. Negotiating team of president Khatami also agreed to sign the
Additional Protocol of the Non-Proliferation Treaty and its safeguards agreement with the
International Atomic Energy Agency. The Additional Protocol granted IAEA inspectors
greater authority in their nuclear verification programs.
All these agreements and unilateral acts reflected reformist approach in the Iranian
foreign policy. Their main elements included opening and integration of Iran in the international
community. Other foreign policy objectives may be more pragmatic from the security
point. Local sources have suggested that Iranian establishment did not want to bring
nuclear case at the UN Security Council while US troops were stationed in Iraq. Former
spokesperson of Iran’s nuclear negotiation team (2003-2005), Seyed Hossein Mousavian
argued that this was the major success and skillful diplomatic maneuver missed by Khatami
successor. “While Mohammad Khatami was president, Mousavian notes, Iran was not
referred to the UN Security Council and did not face the array of draconian sanctions that
are dragging down its economy today.”
Khatami phase also reflected double track approach of Iranian foreign policy.
While temporary suspension of Uranium enrichment as a confidence-building gesture
was formally accepted and practically applied from the end of 2004 through 2005, the
Iranian Parliament never ratified the Additional Protocol. President Khatami has indicated
in his communication with the EU that Iranian authorities will preserve the enrichment
freeze. Similar and reconciliatory diplomatic messages have been stated by his key nuclear
negotiator and future president Hassan Rouhani. However, as reported by local media
in Tehran, other authorities were sending mixed signals in the election years of 2004
(parliamentary) and 2005 (presidential). This could only be understood as building up an
alternative road.
The Iranian supreme leader Ali Khamenei did not object that president Khatami
has open dialogue with the EU troika. He neither stopped him from offering gestures
of good will. However, he did not restrain from public criticism of Khatami throughout
his mandate and endorsed opposition groups to be more critical of his moderate foreign
policy. As Khatami mandate was approaching to an end, this role has been more evident
and politically transparent. The Guardian Council disqualified 3533 moderate candidates
out of 8145, among whom 80 were existing moderate MP-s, for parliamentary election in
2004. Ali Khamenei who controlled the Guardian Council may have already decided to
bring new leadership and produce policy change. Independent scholar Farideh Farhi also
examined Iran’s nuclear policy and argued that the foundations for a nationalist nuclear discourse were carefully laid out during the presidency of reformist Khatami.
It is understood that Iranian establishment and true decision makers calculated
that it was not necessary to continue this path of compromise and opening as from 2005.
Thus, the policy of dialogue has ended with the end of Khatami presidency. Hassan Rouhani
also resigned as key nuclear negotiator. Time was ready for different foreign policy
rhetoric. It seems that Ahmedinejad was perfect choice.
Towards Diplomatic Tension
The victory of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad brought new political elite in the Iranian government.
It also brought new political discourse and new diplomatic agenda of confidence
breaking. New president inaugurated nationalistic and populist rhetoric from the very
beginning of his mandate. Ehteshami and Zweiri (2007) from the Institute of Middle East
and Islamic Studies made detailed analysis of this political transformation by marking
Ahmedinejad and his political cycle as neoconservative, principal, ideologically Islamic,
revolution in character and non clerical.
Even though Ahmadinejad reaffirmed his intention to put forward new proposals
during his speech at the UN General Assembly in 2005, he recommended restarting Uranium
enrichment process at home. Actually, his first major policy was to reject the EU’s
offer from 2005. Ahmedinejad also sacked 40 Iranian diplomats in a massive cleaning of
the reformist oriented Foreign Service including those involved in the country’s nuclear
negotiations with the European troika. Hassan Rouhani, the pragmatic chief negotiator,
was replaced with Ali Larijani, who said that exchanging Iran’s nuclear program for trade
concessions would be like trading “a pearl for a candy.” Leonard (2005) has marked new
president’s initial phase as aggressive and toxic. Ahmedinejad’s diplomatic approach has
been followed by specific action plan at home. Officials from Tehran broke open internationally
monitored seals on the Natanz enrichment facility in the central Iran and at
two related storage and testing locations. These activities cleared the way for Iranians
to resume Uranium enrichment and nuclear fuel research what the US and EU countries
objected and feared the most. There were several possible reasons why this foreign policy change happened. It
has been argued that the EU troika reacted slow and late to Khatami’s unilateral favor.
They agreed to deliver a set of political, economic and nuclear offers only after presidential
elections in 2005. It also remains a question how much Iranian leadership was willing
to make a deal with the EU without the United States. Seyed Hossein Mousavian argued
that the supreme leader had lost confidence in the ability of the Europeans to deliver on
their promises by early 2005. Farideh Farhi argued that the failure of negotiations between
the reformist government and European representatives and subsequent increased
pressure on Ahmadinejad government contributed to the increasingly loud tone Iranian negotiators took after 2006.
Iran felt more secured after constitutional changes and elections in Iraq favored
their pro Iranian constituency. Peter Galbraith shared these views in his book from the
same year “Iraq: Bush Islamic Republic.” To support this argument further, I will also
quote Iranian ambassador to Bagdad as saying that it was big day for them as elected Iraqi
people were our people that we supported. American casualties have been on increase at
that time. Woodward (2008) suggested that Iran gave his contribution to this. By publishing
National Intelligence Estimate in 2007, the US administration gave up the military
solution against Iran completely. Ahmedinejad celebrated this news by proclaiming the
largest Iranian victory in last 100 years (David E. Thaler, Alireza Nader, Shahram Chubin,
Jarrold D. Greem, Charlotte Lynch, F.Wehrey, 2010).
In the meantime, the US government got involved in this case along China and
Russia. Iranian nuclear dossier has been moved into the new multilateral negotiating
framework of five plus one (5 members of UN Security Council plus Germany). Throughout
Ahmedinedjad mandate, Iran and Western countries, however, remained far apart in
these negotiations. As they continued without any compromise at reach, Bush administration
lobbied for three rounds of sanctions by UNSC. President Obama offered dialogue
but soon realized that diplomatic breakthrough with Ahmedinejad was not possible. He
also lobbied for the UN Security Council Resolution 1929 imposing fourth round of multilateral
sanctions in 2011. On every move in this regard, Ahmedinejad radicalized his
rhetoric and announced further unilateral moves. He called these resolutions a piece of
torn paper. Challenging expected fourth round of UN sanctions, he announced that Iran
would increase Uranium enrichment process from 3% to 20% level for the first time. This
move marked a major increase in Iranian nuclear capabilities in 2010 narrowing the space
between civil and military level. There was one important observation during this phase. According to IAEA report
from August, 2012, Iran enriched 6876 kg of Uranium up to level of 3 % and 189 kg up
to level of 20%. As noticed from all other IAEA reports, enriched uranium of 20% never
crossed 200 kg. As soon as Iranian authorities would reach close to 200 kg, they would
convert it into nonreturnable fuel recycle for civil purpose. This represented small but important
sign of Iranian rationality not to provoke international intervention. The problem
would have appeared if 20% enriched Uranium had piled up more than 200kg and eventually
enriched to 90%. The latter enrichment level is considered by experts as the military
level sufficient for one nuclear bomb. It seems that 200 kg was self-declared Iranian red
line. It was also publicly declared red line by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu who stated
this at different multilateral forums.
At the peak of this diplomatic crisis, the US and EU member states imposed multi-lateral and bilateral sanctions preventing Iran from trading its oil to the EU in 2012. President
Ahmadinejad said the sanctions were a “used hand tissue that should be thrown in the
dustbin,” and that they were “not capable of harming Iranians.” Iran threatened to close
Hormuz passage and entered war games with US war ships. Both sides were approaching
the point of entering the real conflict. As evidence suggested in the past, as soon as Iran
was close to crossing this red line it diverted toward reconciliation. Economic authorities
from Tehran also admitted that international sanctions were bringing serious economic
consequences. Iranian oil sale has fallen from almost 4 million to less than 2 million barrels
a day.
During his presidential mandates, Ahmedinejad tried to play visible diplomatic
role by attending every annual session of the UN General Assembly and addressing different
multilateral forums with tough messages. His team negotiated within framework of
5+1 without closing increasing gap between Iran and the international community. In the
course of his second presidential mandate, he tried to reach some diplomatic breakthrough
bypassing negotiating framework of 5+1 by using bilateral or trilateral links with Japan,
Turkey or Brazil. Ahmedinejad signed Teheran declaration with Brazilian President Luiz
Inacio Lula and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in 2010 as a compromise
offer that was not acceptable to the US.
At the end of his mission, Ahmedinejad was increasingly marginalized by the
supreme leader Ali Khamenei. In his double road approach, Khamenei slowly opened an
opportunity for yet another foreign policy shift. Ahmedinejad was left alone and he slightly
changed his rhetoric and offered reconciliatory messages. In his speech at the Summit
of the Nonaligned Movement in Tehran in 2012, he sounded more like a pacifist than a
conservative politician. Iranian more aggressive foreign policy actually ended before he
completed his second term. Towards Dialogue II
President Hassan Rouhani’s new cabinet brought back some reformist faces from the
Khatami administrations from 1997 to 2005. The new foreign minister, Mohammad Javad
Zarif, was Iran’s UN ambassador in the later years of Khatami’s presidency. Massoumeh
Ebtekar, one of Khatami’s vice presidents and the first woman to hold such office in
Iran, returns as vice president responsible for the environment. With new faces, Rouhani
brought back the old reformist foreign policy. As stated, Rouhani wanted to promote Iranian
openness, build new confidence and decrease sanctions. Actually, he wanted quick
diplomatic results. In this regard, he went much further or he was allowed to go further
than ex reformist president Khatami by having direct phone discussion with president
Obama, the first such dialogue after Islamic revolution. His foreign minister Zarifi has
been in regular bilateral meetings with the US State Secretary Kerry in a very relaxed
diplomatic atmosphere. These diplomatic moves were not allowed to Khatami’s cabinet members, at least
not that fast or that often. Rouhani was politically appropriate, trustworthy and most
knowledgeable presidential candidate from within Khamenei circles (Ex SNSC Secretary).
There are arguments that seeds for new moderate presidency in 2013 were also
planted during Khatami presidency. Rouhani’s reconciliatory messages as nuclear negotiator
from 2003-2005 were not forgotten by the international community and key negotiating
countries. This presidency to come was additionally cultivated during intellectual and
surprisingly open debate for Iranian standards on the character of Iranian foreign policy
in 2006 and 2008. In his article in Iranian Foreign Policy Journal, Rouhani asked either
we wanted Iran to scare the region and the world or we need to build friendly relations.
He concluded that between Islamic Republic and Islamic Revolution he chose Islamic
Republic (Rouhani, 2006 and 2008).
It is not by surprise that on the opposite line was the Iranian president Ahmedinejad
himself. The latter argued that reformists were traitors. As reported by Hemayat web
site on March 10, 2008, Ahmedinejad was quoted as saying that those people were asking
the approval from the US government for Iranian progress. All foreign embassies and observers
noted strong rhetoric difference in the Iranian political culture and foreign policy
discourse. American policy and advisors were also sending positive signals in this regard. If
he wants any progress in the Middle East, president Obama needs to open dialogue with
Iran, suggested Gary Sick, prominent university professor and adviser of three US presidents,
Ford, Carter and Regan on CNN on November 16, 2012. Best seller author Stephen
Kinzer (2010) argued in his book Reset that America had interest to open dialog with Iran
prior to this negotiation round. Iran that does not feel any threat may reach compromise on
its nuclear program, open up energy market to US companies, stabilize Iraq and Afghanistan,
and improve fight against terrorism, particularly Al-Qaida. Then, Limbert (2008)
gave 15 recommendations to Obama administration to succeed in dialogue with Iran. His
conclusion was that negotiation between two sides, no matter how hard and difficult, was
probably better then continues violent relations.
In his first press conference as president in August 2013, Rouhani stated: “we seek
a win-win game and this is possible… We are prepared to enter serious and meaningful
negotiations with determination and without wasting time, and if our opposing party is
equally ready, I am confident that the concerns of both sides will be allayed through
dialogue.” This rhetoric has been followed by fresh round of multilateral negotiations
within the group of P 5+1. In November 2013, two sides already signed Technical agreement
and agreed to continue negotiation to reach comprehensive deal in 2014. Under
this Technical agreement, Iranian side agreed to stop 20% enrichment of Uranium started
by Ahmedinejad in 2010 and close its Plutonium facility in Arak. From the other side, 5 billion of frozen Iranian financial recourses have been released and other minor sanctions
were removed. In the meantime, several new rounds of talks have been held in Vienna,
including bilateral talks between Iranian Foreign Minister Zarifi and US Secretary Kerry.
Negotiators aimed to find an exceedingly complex and lasting deal limiting Iran’s atomic
activities in exchange for a lifting of sanctions.
The latest foreign policy shift might help the supreme leader Khamenei to improve
his standing with increasing and disappointed Iranian population that belongs to reformist
or pragmatic constituency by bringing Reformist back on the main course after political
turmoil in 2009. However, some recent events indicated that Khamenei’s support may be
waning as reflected through increased criticism from the right wing individuals. Iranian
Parliament also rejected Rouhani’s nominations for vacant ministry positions on several
occasion. These controlled attacks against Rouhani may be explained by several reasons.
As suggested by analysts, Ali Khamenei will not appear to betray his base of support from
Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Then, he may attempt to increase bargaining
power of Rouhani abroad by criticizing him at home. Third, most probable and most consistent,
Khamenei may be building an alternative foreign policy option as he did on two
other occasions with Khatami and Ahmedinejad already.According to the latest negotiation round between Iranian and 5+1 delegations on
November 22-24, 2014, new deadline has been extended to March 1, 2015 for new technical
agreement and July 1, 2015 for final agreement. Iran’s supreme leader gave his indirect
approval for a continuation of talks over its disputed nuclear program on November 25,
2014. He has been quoted as saying: “on the nuclear issue, the United States and European
colonialist countries gathered and applied their entire efforts to bring the Islamic Republic
to its knees but they could not and they will not.” Vice chairman of parliament, Mohammad
Hassan Aboutorabifard, said the U.S. is not trustworthy since Washington “sacrifices”
its national interests for Israel, but he still voiced support for further nuclear talks.
In an address to the nation, the President Rouhani said that the extension was a victory,
adding negotiations will lead to a deal, “sooner or later.” In this regard, we have yet to see
what final approach would be taken by Ali Khamenei. Will this latest diplomatic breakthrough
of partial nuclear compromise from November 2013 go all the way forward? As
always, Iranian supreme leader has kept all options available by taking into consideration
Iranian national interest. Political experience and evidence from the past also suggested
that as soon as Iran arrives close to any big deal, cordial relations or opening of the country,
it will divert in the opposite direction.
It is evident that Iran is preoccupied with its security and continuation of their state’s
leadership existence. In order to ensure its survival, it will seek to maximize its negotiation
power relative to others. As evidence suggested, international law and international institutions did not constrain or influence Iranian behavior to the extent that they blindly
follow. In this regard, there is no difference with the Iranian foreign policy which is extension
of its internal policy.
Iran has been using its energy wealth and leverage to strengthen his regional influence
with more vulnerable neighbors. It has also used the stature to complicate U.S.
interests (Carlos Pascual and Evie Zambetakis, 2010). In this regard, it clearly reflects the
realist point of view. However, Iranian decision makers seem to be pragmatic as well in
terms of not crossing self declared red lines. As presented in the paper, they never decided
to accumulate enriched Uranium of 20% to 200kg, thus avoiding breaking the trust completely
or giving strong evidence of nuclear military program.
This historical attitude of last 11 years has been fluid between two red lines reflecting
Iranian double track approach. As presented in the paper, Iranian establishment
moved between two opposing lines all the time. As soon as Iran reached one (dialogue,
compromise, cordial relations with the West), it diverted towards animosity and instability
almost as a rule.
This has been the transitional phase from Khatami to Ahmedinejad presidency. On
the other side, as soon as it reached the other red line (instability, isolation and possible
war with the United States), it diverted again, this time towards dialogue, compromise or
cordial relations. This has been the transitional phase from Ahmedinejad to Rouhani presidency.
As Iran followed its national interest at the time, it also reflected the realist point
rather than any other understanding of international relations behavior. Thus, Donette
(2010) spoke about generational struggle in her book US Foreign Policy and Iran.
It has been evident that all negotiating positions and all shifts in Iranian foreign
relations have been supervised by the supreme leader. And this has been consistent policy
throughout three phases that have been examined. Although the decision to end the suspension
of Uranium enrichment in 2005 was probably taken before Ahmadinejad, Ayatollah
Ali Khamenei made clear before the election that the nuclear issue was a national,
not a presidential matter (Leonard, 2005). After the latest negotiating round in November
this year, the New York Times reported that Iranian current foreign minister “often warned
that the final decision would be in the hands of the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.”
Is comprehensive nuclear deal between Iran and the West possible? The supreme
leader was initially restraining public criticism of Rouhani through his public support for
the nuclear negotiations at the end of 2013 and beginning of 2014. Khamenei gave him a
chance, tested his loyalty and checked US / EU approach and readiness for compromise.
To some extent, he is still checking deal options as negotiating deadline has been extended to mid of 2015. Other options have been kept alive as controlled attacks from the conservative
cycles continued. American analysts believe that any serious attempt to renew
Iranian American relations would be political earthquake in Iran, would create political
fractions of losers and winners where losers would refuse to accept change of existing
status quo (David E. Thaler, Alireza Nader, Shahram Chubin, Jarrold D. Greem, Charlotte
Lynch, F.Wehrey, 2010).
Therefore, for any nuclear deal to be agreed on Iranian side, it is not sufficient that
the negotiating delegation only consent. More importantly, it is conservative cycles in
general and supreme leader in particular that has the final say. Rouhani has complex position
in this regard. He has to reach as better deal as possible. At the same time, he is supposed
to convince extreme circles, including supreme leader, that there is no alternative
to Iranian course of opening. Failure to deal with the international community is failure
to his reformist policy. Similar stand could be expected from the US side. As reported by
US media, “Kerry’s position was complicated by the Republican midterm election victory
and the fear of feeding the narrative that Mr. Obama was a weakened president.” This
brings us to the final conclusion that reaching final deal between Iran and the West next
year depends on so many centers of power and so many opposing views.
Success in ongoing negotiations could resolve one of the most intractable geopolitical
problems in the region. From the other side, the failure could divert Iran from dialog
to tension yet again. If there is no deal between Iran and the international community next
year, the United States will face a clear choice. On one side, US will be in position of
tolerating the Iranian nuclear ambition. On the other, it may reapply continued diplomatic
and economic pressure. On the extreme side, as suggested by US authorities, military
means have not been excluded.

Emir Hadzikadunic

About Emir Hadzikadunic

Emir Hadzikadunic completed interdisciplinary postgraduate program in Human Rights and Democracy at the University of Sarajevo / University of Bologna in 2002., undergraduate program in Communications at the IIUM in Kuala Lumpur in 1997. Obtained additional academic training at College of Europe Bruges, Belgium; San Pablo CEU University Madrid, Spain; Danish School of Public Administration Copenhagen, Denmark; and Diplomatic Academy Dubrovnik, Croatia. Currently PhD candidate at the International University of Sarajevo (2013-2016). Published two books: Zašto Iran (in English: Why Iran), by the Center for Advanced Studies, Sarajevo in 2013 and Od Dejtona do Brisela (in English: From Dayton to Brussels), by the Center for Interdisciplinary Postgraduate Studies, Sarajevo in 2005. Additionally published chapter in books, academic journal articles and media outlets on Middle East, Political Culture in B&H and European Integration. Lectured at the International University of Sarajevo, Media Plan institute, London School of Public Relations / implemented by SPEM Komunikacijskas kupina from Maribor and Multilateral Academy. Served as Ambassador of B&H to IR of Iran from 2010-2013. Currently working as the Secretary General at the International University of Sarajevo.