+972 Magazine's Stories of the Week

Directly In Your Inbox

Analysis News
Visit our Hebrew site, "Local Call" , in partnership with Just Vision.

If nuclear deal fails, we can kiss Iran's moderates goodbye

Should Iran and the West fail to come to an agreement, the battle will no longer be between the right and left, but rather between democratic forces and totalitarian ones.

By Ahmad Rafat

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. (World Economic Forum)

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. (World Economic Forum)

There is no doubt that the negotiators, whom these days are working to achieve a comprehensive deal on Iran’s nuclear plan, do not want to drive a stake through these talks. Even France, which has been playing “bad cop” to the U.S.’s “good cop” in these meetings, is interested in reaching an agreement. It seems that the only country that stands nothing to gain is Russia (which protects the interests of Iran), although for reasons that extend beyond the scope of this article, it cannot publicly express its reservations regarding the deal.

A number of questions on this issue have arisen, and each one deserves its own analysis: should a comprehensive agreement be reached, what will be the consequences? Should talks fail, what will be the fallout? What are the pros and cons of each of these scenarios?

The answers to these questions greatly depend on the geographical origin and political outlook of the person answering, and in practice may vary greatly. The response of an Iranian who opposes the Islamic Republic will be inherently different than that of someone from Tehran’s political echelon. The same can be said about a Russian diplomat whose response will likely be the exact opposite than that of an American diplomat. And we must take into account, of course, that the response of an Democratic American diplomat will be different than that of a Republican.

I write this only to clarify that the following analysis is the work of a journalist whose opinion differs from that of the Islamic Republic and who has worked for many years on issues of human rights, and thus analyzes the aforementioned questions from this angle.

The historical significance of a comprehensive agreement, which will put an end to the perpetual crisis surrounding Iran’s nuclear plan, is clear to all. But will this deal—if it is indeed signed, and more importantly if it does not turn into shreds within a few months time—truly solve the international community vis-a-vis the Islamic Republic? What about the countries in the region? Or most of all: the citizens of Iran themselves? There is no doubt that the answer to these questions are negative.

The Iranian authorities have stated time and again that the deal cannot and need not set the stage for normalizing relations with the United States—”the Great Satan.” Due to the capacities of civil society both within and outside the country, the Iranian regime knows well that normalizing relations with the United States, and the international community more generally, could lead to a major crisis inside Iran.

The only incentive that has led Iran to sit at the negotiating table and hold direct talks with the U.S. is the desire to put an end to the sanctions that have paralyzed the economy. It would be a mistake to assume that the architects of the talks were President Rouhani or his foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif. The talks with the U.S. began months before Rouhani was elected president, during the rule of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, by order of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and with the mediation of Oman’s Sultan Qaboos bin Said al Said.

U.S. Secretary of State Kerry, U.S. Energy Secretary Moniz Stand With Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif and Vice President of Iran for Atomic Energy Salehi Before Meeting in Switzerland, March 16, 2015. (State Dept. photo)

U.S. Secretary of State Kerry, U.S. Energy Secretary Moniz Stand With Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif and Vice President of Iran for Atomic Energy Salehi Before Meeting in Switzerland, March 16, 2015. (State Dept. photo)

But the most important question of all is the following: if, by removing sanctions, Iran is able to get hold of its confiscated oil dollars, will it continue to play by the rules of the game as laid out in the agreement?

And another important question: will this deal bring about any changes in the Islamic Republic’s regional policies?

There is no doubt that Iran’s nuclear plan is crucial in the context of its insidious, regional policies. Even today, when Iran has yet to develop a bomb, the West cannot properly deal with the Islamic Republic’s hegemonic proclivities in the region. In fact, Iran has a central role in every one of the region’s many crises. From Iraq to Syria, from Gaza to Yemen, from Afghanistan to Lebanon, Iran is omnipresent. That isn’t to say that other countries in the region, such as Israel, Qatar or Saudi Arabia do not play a decisive role themselves.

Will Iran’s government, which uses its depleted budget to provide billions in loans to Syria, sends weapons to Yemen and provides Hamas with missiles (through Hezbollah), cease its wasteful adventurousness after receiving its oil money? Without a doubt, the answer to this question is negative.

We are speaking about a regime in which certain regions, such as the Baluchestan district—which according to government sources has a poverty rate of 70 percent—recently provided Venezuela—a country on an entirely different continent—$3 billion in aid. Will the Islamic Republic lessen its influence on Latin America—the backyard of the United States—after the nuclear deal is signed? The answer to this question is also negative.

Read: Why the Lausanne deal protects both Israel and Iran

As a human rights activist, I cannot ignore the history of the Islamic Republic, which includes one of the most tragic and dark periods in the modern history of Iran. When the founder of the Islamic Republic, Ruhollah Khomeini, was resigned to accept the UN Security Council’s truce that put an end to the eight-year Iran-Iraq War, he executed nearly 5,000 opponents of the regime who at the time were serving their sentences in prison. Every time the Iranian regime has had to soften its foreign policy, it has in turn increased the pressure on its internal dissidents. There is no reason to assume that things will be different this time around, meaning that the opponents of the Islamic Republic will have to pay the price for Iran’s compromise vis-a-vis the international community.

This policy has many reasons behind it. One of the main ones is the desire to create an atmosphere of fear inside the country, so that opponents don’t get the impression that external concessions will also mean internal concessions.

Now let us analyze the possibility that the talks fail and no deal is reached. In this case, there is no doubt that parts of the regime—specifically the ones who are considered “moderates” or “reformists”—will have to leave political arena and place the reins in the hands of the fundamentalists and the extremists. This scenario is far more dangerous than the first: Iran’s pyromania-style foreign policy will only deepen, internal repression will grow, and the role of Russia and China in entrenching the crisis vis-a-vis the West will become clearer. It would be safe to assume that the Iranian regime will become Russia’s main ally and form a new bloc against the West and the United States.

Russia is undoubtedly hoping to re-create a bi-polar geopolitical reality. Should the talks fail, Iran will become Putin’s natural ally—one that can garner support in the Muslim world. This time, it won’t be a battle between right and left, but rather democratic forces against totalitarian ones.

Ahmad Rafat is a journalist and Iranian television producer. He lives outside of Iran. This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.

Newsletter banner

Before you go...

A lot of work goes into creating articles like the one you just read. And while we don’t do this for the money, even our model of non-profit, independent journalism has bills to pay.

+972 Magazine is owned by our bloggers and journalists, who are driven by passion and dedication to the causes we cover. But we still need to pay for editing, photography, translation, web design and servers, legal services, and more.

As an independent journalism outlet we aren’t beholden to any outside interests. In order to safeguard that independence voice, we are proud to count you, our readers, as our most important supporters. If each of our readers becomes a supporter of our work, +972 Magazine will remain a strong, independent, and sustainable force helping drive the discourse on Israel/Palestine in the right direction.

Support independent journalism in Israel/Palestine Donate to +972 Magazine today
View article: AAA
Share article
Print article

    * Required


    1. Philos

      I don’t think 972mag is the place for this kind of propaganda and “democracy and freedom” bombs sort of ‘human rights’ activist. We can get our fill of this stuff, albeit less nuanced and well-written, from the NYT, The Guardian, Ha’aretz or any other liberal rag.

      “Latin America—the backyard of the United States” – says it all really (I almost stopped reading at this point but continued in case the article was actually going to be a great piece of satire).

      Indeed, the whole angle about China and Russia vs “the West” is sheer liberal/conservative ideological BS. Like I said, we can get this from the mainstream. I come to 972mag to get real journalism that speaks truth to power; not one that parrots the liberal interventionist line.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Pedro X

      There are moderates in Iran? Of course there are. After the Green Revolution was violently put down those moderates were put in prison or are now lying in graves. Members of the ruling Iranian junta are not moderates in any sense of the world.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Ginger Eis

      If the talks fail, the goose of el señor Presidente Obama shall have been cooked!

      1). el señor Presidente Obama warns el señor Mullah Rouhani:

      “The framework agreement that was established at Lausanne was one that, if implemented,” he said, “would in fact achieve my goal.”

      But if Iran cannot abide by the framework, the US president said, “that’s going to be a problem.”

      “I will walk away from the negotiations if, in fact, its a bad deal,” he said. “If the verification regime is inadequate, then we’re not going to get a deal.”

      2). el señor Mullah Rouhani responds with warning to el señor Presidente Oboama:

      “We will return to our previous path more forceful than what they may imagine if deal fails”

      Oy! That was el señor Presidente Oboama talking tough with his tail between his legs. Oy veh!

      el señor Presidente Oboama, there was NO “Framework agreement” and you need not be a jurist to know that. You had your own document in English which you believed to be the framework. The Iranians had their own document in Farsi which they believed to be the “Framework”. Both the English and the Farsi documents do not have the same content and both contain nothing concrete – except the huge concessions your made to Iran (e.g. accepting and legalizing Fordo, etc.) in exchange for NOTHING in return! Upon leaving Lausanne, your own Officials and the Mullahs started making claims as to what is in the “Framework” and the declarations of both could not and cannot be true at the same time. But you, el señor Presidente, buried your head in the sand and reveled in the fantasy of being the greatest President ever to walk the face of the earth. You have since moved from “inspections anywhere, anytime” to “inspections some places, sometimes” in your quest to appease the Mullahs and secure your big legacy. You decided to gamble with our lives in exchange for your big legacy and a big place in the books of history. Well, el señor Presidente Oboama, it seems the day of reckoning has come and the Mullahs ain’t going to be taking prisoners! The Mullahs think that you are a “feigling”, and when all is said and done, you may not be able to prove them wrong.


      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        Are you taking Spanish lessons, la señora Helado? That’s nice. Could you please translate this decision by El Presidente into Spanish to give it that special ‘un no sé qué’? Muchas gracias. ==>

        Chemi Shalev reports today:

        “The U.S. State Department on Tuesday punched a big hole in Israel-led efforts to induce the Obama administration to regard boycotts of settlements as identical to boycott of Israel proper. In doing so, it provided the Israeli government and the pro-Israel lobby with yet another painful lesson in the pitfalls of being too clever by half and biting off more than one should chew.
        A special statement issued by the State Department Press Office on Tuesday afternoon made clear that while the administration “strongly opposes” any boycott, divestment or sanctions against the State of Israel, it does not extend the same protection to “Israel-controlled territories.” Rather than weakening efforts to boycott Jewish settlements in the occupied territories, as Israel supporters had planned, the State Department was actually granting them unprecedented legitimacy.”

        Reply to Comment
    4. Double Dutch Bus

      Thanks for reporting on this!

      Reply to Comment
    5. Cowboy

      This article is a crock of shit. Even the title is offensive.

      Reply to Comment