Barack Obama summed up the results of the year at a White House conference. Talking about foreign policy he did not omit Iran. The President made a promise to veto any sanctions imposed against this country by Congress. At that the Washington’s refusal to see Iran as a Geneva-2 conference participant sounds rather insulting for Tehran. The administration attempts to hinder the process of imposing sanctions against Iran in the Senate have led nowhere. 26 senators supported the motion, including 13 Democrats and 13 Republicans. It’s not clear as yet when the Senate will tackle the issue as yet, there is no date set. The Senate majority leader Democrat Harry Reid has managed to put off the vote while hoping Washington will make a deal with its opponents in Congress. Obama is afraid that additional sanctions may result in dividing the international coalition and undermining confidence in the United States. The White House believes the sanctions in effect have already been quite a success.
Being an interested party, Iran is watching closely the bickering between the White House and Congress… Realizing that the process aimed at easing sanctions has just started and is rather fragile as it is, Iran displays readiness to comply with the nuclear program obligations, but at any moment it is ready to shift to a more belligerent stand. For instance, the Iranian delegation walked out from technical talks in Vienna to protest the US decision to blacklist 19 companies and persons for violating the sanctions regime. Tehran bristled up even more when 26 senators came up with a bill to toughen it. According to MP Seyed Mahdi Mousavi Nejad, member of the parliament's energy commission, in response the level of uranium enrichment may increase. Iran is interested in reaching an accord to ease sanctions as soon as possible. That’s why in a little while the Iranian team got back to the round table. According to Abbas Araghchi, the current Deputy for Legal and International Affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the progress is too slow for a breakthrough to be achieved. The economic team of President Hassan Rouhani started to plan the next state budget in belief the sanctions will remain. It plans to add up to $80 billion more increasing the export of iron ore, copper, electric energy and oil products. Boosting their efficiency state companies may increase their contribution to the budget. According to the predictions of Iranian economists, the lifting of sanctions will create an economic boom in the country with economic growth as high as 9-10 percent after 2015. I believe, that is exactly what fuels anxiety in regard to would-be normalization of the relations between the United States and Iran and the return of large European companies into the country. The Arab rivals in the Persian Gulf have special interest in weakening Iran. This stand-off is clearly visible in Syria. The Syrian situation is on the agenda of the January 2014 international conference with the participation of 30 states. It will take place on January 22 in the Swiss city of Montreux; the final composition of participants is still to be made clear. The Obama administration turns a deaf ear to the recommendations of Russia, the United Nations and the Arab League saying that it is expedient to involve Iran. Talking to the UN Secretary General on the phone, the Iranian Foreign policy chief confirmed Iran is willing to send a team to Geneva. Getting no invitation is not the end of the world, though Iran does not hide its frustration over the US refusal to let it go to Montreux. As in the case of the first Geneva conference, the White House sides with Israel and Saudi Arabia which reject the idea of Iran’s participation.
The US stand against Iran’s participation in the Geneva-2 process is under harsh criticism from Moscow. Russia believes the decision will further complicate the implementation of would-be agreements. There are great doubts the Geneva-2 will lead to interim cease-fire in Syria without Iran participating in the process. Iran renders all kinds of support to Bashar Assad, its instructors are there, it supplies weapons and ammunition, the financial aid is around 600-700 million a month. Experts believe the Iranian support for Syria during the war is as much as 20 billion dollars totally (just exactly what Syria has lost with its GDP being reduced from $60 to $40 billion). The estimation does not include the Tehran-proxy Lebanon-based organization Hezbollah operating in Syria on the side of the government. The Assad’s opponents admit that the Hezbollah’s contribution is crucial for maintaining control over the western and central parts of the country. The group is well armed and combat efficient. For instance, in May 2013 it seized Al Qusayr in the western part of Syria to liberate it from mercenaries. Shiites from other countries come to Syria and fight for the government. They have received their training in Iranian training camps. Tehran is reasonable enough to realize it is not able to shift the tide of conflict alone, so it supports international diplomatic efforts to put an end to the civil war and the foreign intervention in Syria. Ignoring Tehran and threatening it with new sanctions reflects the fact that the US is not ready to recognize Iran as a regional leader to reckon with.
The recent decisions taken by the Obama’s administration reflect the lack of trust towards Iran. The Obama’s veto does not do away with the threat of sanctions. The bill will remain on the Senate’s agenda providing a kind of insurance in case Tehran fails to comply with the interim accords on the nuclear program. Obama is not sure Iran will do the right thing as a participant in the conference. The goal of the US is still the overthrow of the legal government in Syria. At present the US needs time to create new regional alliances. The Iran’s participation is not outright rejected but it is not taking any tangible shape in real terms.