Almost three weeks ago, on 18thSeptember,in New York, the United Nations General Assembly’s session began amid political developments surrounding the Iranian scene, where there have been significant changes since last year regarding the Iranian issue, especially America’s focus on the need to confront Iranian influence in the region. After months of fire-brand rhetoric by US President Donald Trump against Tehran and the announcement of his intention to toughen sanctions on Tehran in November of this year; there are moves by the US to develop a foreign policy in the region, as part of a broader strategy, with its allies to confront Iran. Recent events have also encouraged certain Arab countries to move quickly and to take advantage of the situation by voicing their support for Washington on mutually beneficial policies in the region.
Iran’s attitude towards the negotiations
During the past few months, following the US withdrawal from the nuclear deal, President Rouhani has sought to align himself more closely with the views of Iran’s supreme leader, Sayyid al-Khamenei. In so doing, he has effectively slammed the door shut on any speculation about any possible dialogue between the American and Iranian sides, and at the same time adopted a tougher stance regarding Iran’s foreign policy.
During a meeting held several weeks ago, attended by Sayyid al-Khamenei and members of the government, President Rouhani delivered an important speech, in which he mentioned the US sanctions that had been imposed on Iran, stressing that there seems to be no political solution in sight because the US administration, which imposed these sanctions on Tehran, did not respect agreements, and “US ambitions go beyond mere economic pressure, they want to renew their presence in Iran and to control it,” adding that “Our people will never allow this and will demonstrate to the whole world their resistance and steadfastness.”
In an earlier statement, President Rouhani said that his country “will not yield to American pressure and will maintain its dignity and will resist the United States.” At the same time, he pointed out he had the unanimous support of the Iranian people. These statements came despite the fact that it is Sayyid Ali al-Khamenei who usually has the final say on key foreign policy issues.
President Rouhani addressed the Iranian parliament regarding the need to abide by the directives of the Supreme Leader, and a day later, for his part, Sayyid al-Khamenei praised the restraint, calmness and equanimity displayed by the President of the Republic, and also mentioned how in the recent elections Rouhani had won the votes of more than 23 million Iranian voters.
Contrary to media reports in which Tehran appears to be keen on entering into negotiations and finding a solution to its nuclear programme; it remains committed to the terms of the last agreement, further arguing that negotiating with the US regarding its ballistic missile programme is a red line.
The US attitude towards the negotiations
In a televised speech, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani talked about the negotiations between the United States and Iran and said: “Those who claim to be willing to negotiate must understand that negotiations have rules and principles; and that the first principle is credibility.” President Rouhani further added that: “Trump’s rhetoric appears to have two aims: the first – to make the Iranian people question its leadership and the country’s government through psychological warfare. The second – to achieve electoral gains for his party in the upcoming elections for the American Congress.”
The roots of Iran’s economic crises date back to the pre-Islamic Revolution era
According to the views of some economists, the roots of Iran’s economic crises date back to the pre-Islamic Revolution era. President Rouhani has stated that: “The root cause of many of Iran’s economic woes neither belong to this government nor to its predecessors; they perhaps even belong to a time before the revolution. However, we, the eleventh successive [post-revolution] government, have already taken the necessary measures to maintain the stability of the foreign exchange market; and indeed, we have been able to do so, and the people were confident of witnessing an improvement in the economic situation. However, the protests that broke out several months ago in one of the cities and which were accompanied by calls for public disorder, and which were also further exploited by Trump who launched threats aimed at influencing the social and economic order, had the effect of raising the level of fear among the people and the emergence of some economic problems.”
The new confrontation
Iranian politicians view the new confrontation with greater optimism than the previous one, as on this occasion Washington stands alone in waging the new wave of sanctions, with other key international leaders showing no interest in engaging with the US sanctions. This was the view expressed by President Hassan Rouhani in a recent speech, in which he also indicated that; “China and Russia have informed us, with total frankness, that they will oppose American pressure and that they are determined to maintain the agreements signed with Iran.” Rouhani pointed to the importance of strengthening relations with Asian countries, and that at the same time he was looking forward to closer relations with countries of the European Union, which was his way of denying Washington the opportunity of piling pressure on the Europeans, on the one hand, and on the other, his way of communicating to the Europeans that Moscow and Beijing were the key economic and commercial partners in the Iranian market, thereby signalling that alternative measures were already in place. This in turn should encourage the European Union to take a stand against Washington’s pressure and not to compromise their interests with Tehran. Rouhani also indicated that the political position taken by the European countries was positive, but there remained a problem with their businesses coming under pressure from America and facing possible sanctions; and therefore stated that Iran was still waiting for “practical measures from the European side.”
Following the last meeting held between Iran and the P4+1 group [referring to a downsized version of the original P5+1 group of nuclear deal signatories that previously included the US], when ministerial-level talks were held on the side-lines of the UN meeting, [EU foreign policy chief] Federica Mogheriniannounced that the participants had re-affirmed the full implementation of the nuclear agreement and were working towards finding solutions to outstanding problems.
For his part, Iran’s Foreign Minister. Mohammad Javad Zarif, confirmed that his country was fully committed to the implementation of the agreement, and that the participants in the meeting had confirmed Iran’s right to sell its oil and welcomed the establishment of channels between the participating countries and Iran to help maintain Iranian exports.
Mogherini told reporters that “EU member states will set up a legal entity to facilitate legitimate financial transactions with Iran,” signalling a positive attitude by the European partners towards Iran.
Major European businesses are concerned about the measures that may be taken against Iran, but they also believe that there is great potential in the Iranian market, where foreign investors can generate large returns. Because of this – and because of the diversity of economic cooperation and the special way Asian and European companies view Iran – recent political developments appear to have had little impact on Iran’s economy – contrary to the expectations of the United States.
There are expectations inside Iran that President Rouhani will show more interest in the country’s economy than he has previously done, and that his foreign policy orientations will be more closely aligned with those of the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution in Iran. Therefore, Rouhani’s task is likely to prove difficult if he tries to meet the demands of his people at home in light of the prevailing circumstances.
Some Iranian economists claim that the economic problems which Iran is facing today are more the result of mismanagement than US sanctions. In August, Iran’s parliament sacked two ministers: the Minister of Economic Affairs and Finance, Masoud Karbasian, after questioning him about his performance relating to the economic situation faced by the country; and the Minister of Cooperatives, Labour and Social Welfare, Ali Rabie, who was sacked for similar reasons.
1- Rouhani: The government will not resign / Leader of the Revolution announced that he supports whatever the leaders of the three powers agree on – http://tn.ai/1762336
2- Rouhani: Iran will not yield to American pressure and will maintain its dignity and will resist the United States – http://www.irinn.ir/fa/news/627915
- Parliament questions the Iranian president –http://www.bbc.com/persian/iran-45327598
- Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali al-Khamenei praises the performance of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani – https://www.dw.com/fa-ir/iran/a-45276015
5- Hassan Rouhani: Negotiations are meaningless under the shadow of sanctions – https://fa.euronews.com/2018/08/06/rouhani-tv-speach-on-sanctions
- The first joint statement of Zarif and Mogherini – The five countries confirm their commitment to the nuclear deal with Iran – https://fa.alalam.ir/news/3797836/