There is little ambiguity in Iran’s position regarding the mechanism and timeframe of lifting international, European, and US sanctions on Tehran following a nuclear agreement immediately after a deal is concluded and not later. Rather, the ambiguity comes from the White House regarding what is being negotiated with respect to the sanctions. The ambiguity is coupled with measures Congress has up its sleeve in this regard, serious and actual measures not meant for one-upmanship.
There is little ambiguity in the Iranian policy on Syria, which Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif reiterated this week, stressing support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and rejecting the principle of a transitional governing body in Syria that is the foundation and reference framework in the internationally agreed Geneva I communique. Rather, the ambiguity comes from the United States and the European Union, which seem to have both signalled to UN envoy Staffan de Mistura to not fear reactions against inviting Iran to participate in negotiations on Syria’s future despite opposition from the Arab countries, and to not bother clarify his alternative to the Geneva I communique. European Union's foreign policy representative, Frederica Mogherini even insisted on Iran playing a key role without explaining why this would be positive, and made sure to send implicit messages to Saudi Arabia and other countries opposed to the Iranian role saying it would be simplistic to believe Iran could disappear from the map.
There is no ambiguity at all in Tehran’s satisfaction with being a de-facto ally of the United States in the war on ISIS in Iraq and Syria. This is how the Iranian government hoped the US administration would think since the start of the conflict in Syria, which Iran insisted is a war with terrorism. Thus, ISIS was allowed to emerge and a de-facto alliance was forged between Washington and Tehran to crush it. Rather, the ambiguity comes from the heart of the Obama administration, which is secretly dealing with Iran in the war on ISIS in Syria and Iraq while publicly dealing with the Arab countries in a so-called international anti-ISIS coalition, all while pushing both Iran and the Arabs to be distrustful of one another.
Iran is clear in wanting a quagmire in Yemen for Saudi Arabia unless Riyadh agrees to legitimize the Houthi coup against the legitimate government. The Obama administration is playing both sides. Iran is not ambiguous in holding on to its cards and interests in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and Lebanon. Rather, what is ambiguous is the long-term comprehensive Arab strategy towards Iran’s nuclear and regional ambitions, coupled with the ambiguity of the US intentions in the same regard. Indeed, Washington seems willing to give Tehran all it is asking for in return for the nuclear deal -- which the US discourse these days suggests is ready for signing -- while averting to confront Iran to curb its expansion in the Arab countries. If the Arab leaders heading to Camp David soon to meet with President Obama have any grievances, these will not be taken seriously unless they are clear and firm about what they accept or insist upon in this fateful period of time. Ambiguity is not in the Arab interest nor in the US interest in the end.
Some like to compare the nuclear agreement to be signed between the United States and Iran to the historical agreements between the United States and China, for which the prominent strategist Henry Kissinger is credited. The detente with China was a delicate balancing act of US-Sino-Russian relations, on the basis that both China and Russia needed the United States. The United States was able to benefit in a great strategic way from that reality.
In the agreement with Iran, the United States does not benefit from closing the book on the animus with the mullah regime in Tehran, which took power 36 years ago and introduced religious domination over the state in the Middle East. Many Americans like to think that the nuclear deal will turn the page on America’s wars, protect the United States from Sunni extremism, and prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
There are many holes in these assumptions. First, the nuclear deal postpones but does not abolish Iran’s non-peaceful nuclear capabilities. So practically speaking, the United States is agreeing to abolish the nuclear non-proliferation duty not only because regional countries will seek nuclear weapons if Iran acquires them, but because the entire international non-proliferation regime could collapse as countries like Brazil, for example, will not sit idly by.
Second, allowing Tehran to gather more ways to increase its dominance by lifting the sanctions and letting US and European companies make huge investments in Iran that can never be reversed by being “snapped back,” that is reimposing sanctions, would exacerbate extremism. The tens of billions of dollars that Tehran will reap upon signing the nuclear deal would more or less mean funding its regional projects including expansion into the Arab countries. This is tantamount to investing in sectarian wars in the Islamic world, and this is not a wise policy and it will not spare the countries that feed hostility and strife.
Third, the arrangements related to ensuring Iran does not acquire nuclear weapons are so complicated that they almost become useless. This will increase the sense of arrogance within the Iranian leadership, which would have disposed of he sanctions while obtaining the tools it requires to implement its nuclear and regional plans -- with US and European financing.
Many have reservations on whether the nuclear deal being drafted by US Secretary of State John Kerry pursuant to Obama’s vision resembles the breakthrough made by Kissinger in US-Chinese relations. One observer well familiar with the secrets and details of the framework agreement with Iran said, “This is not an agreement similar to what Kissinger secured. It is similar to the agreement concluded by Chamberlain,” in reference to the British Prime Minister at the time and his famous appeasement of Hitler. The observer believes Tehran will exploit the qualitative shift in US-Iranian relations after the nuclear deal to bolster its projects for regional dominance, on the basis that Iran would become a trusted partner of the United States.
Tehran is seeking to impose its model -- of religion imposed on the state -- on the countries of the region as a fait accompli. Iran is even encouraging the Muslim Brotherhood to press ahead with