On February 11, 1979 the world saw one of the most momentous events of the XX century. 35 years ago the leader of the first Islamic revolution ayatollah Khomeini solemnly declared victory. It was the end of the shah power that had lasted for 2500 years. The power went to spiritual leaders. The major part of Iranian people never adopted radical westernization and one-sided orientation on the United States, it supported the revolutionary slogan “Independence and freedom!” Today Iranians’ aspiration to preserve their national and state originality is as relevant as the ongoing stand-off with the USA…
Before the revolution Iran had been the most reliable US satellite state in the Middle East. Only in the 1970s it spent over 26 billion dollars on US-produced weapons. In 1980 the US arms expenditure was 12 billion. Around 60 thousand US military personnel were invited as instructors. The oil revenue and military expenditure were huge while the average living standards remained extremely low. The US leading position and heavy presence made it a target of people’ discontent, the ensuing hostile attitude towards the Islamic revolution strengthened the anti-US sentiments in the ranks of Iranian leadership. Now the trend to the normalization of the relations with the US is taking shape, but does it imply a deviation from the staple principles of Islamic revolution?
Speaking on the occasion of the 35th anniversary, Iran’s spiritual leader ayatollah Khamenei said the US lied saying it had no intention to overthrow the incumbent government of Iran. Ayatollah Khamenei believes the Islamic Republic of Iran can align its policies with the existing international realities but the main principles of the 1979 revolution should remain intact. Special attention is paid to defense potential as a necessary element of deterring the United States. Tehran is sure the Unites States has not abandoned its plans to topple the Iranian ruling regime. In many ways Iran has become a strong military power enjoying significant international clout, something the friends and foes concur on. It leaves Washington beyond the framework of direct dialogue with Iranians. It also damages the effectiveness of US contemporary foreign policy, and it’ll be counterproductive in future. President Obama will have to tackle the Iranian problem one way or another.
Having adopted a flexible attitude at the nuclear talks and seeing the readiness of Tehran to discuss the regional problems at the round table, Washington abruptly changed its Iranian policy. After the success of “nuclear” Geneva, the White House blocked the Iran’s participation in the Geneva-2 international conference on Syria. It made Israel and Saudi Arabia happy. The United States got no special dividends; it only displayed the inconsistency and indecisiveness of Obama administration. Many countries perceived it as a proof of the fact that America had no clear-cut Middle East strategy.
The United States does not see the things clearly when it comes to the assessment of possible consequences as Iran’s international standing is increasing as a result of its compliance with the Geneva agreements. President Obama still has no fathomable and Congress-approved conditions stipulating the normalization of the relationship with Iran. It has leverage – economic sanctions including oil exports introduced unilaterally together with the European Union getting around the United Nations. The threat of using force remains, something Israel has been insisting on. But all these options will have to go to archive as Iran is complying with the agreements reached with the big six. Then will Iran depend so much on the US readiness for a relationship based on the principle of equality?
The Iranian economy has survived without the United States during the thirty five years after the revolution, there is no doubt that with the sanctions lifted Iran could do without the United States.
There is a convincing example. Iran has over sixty US-produced F-5 and F-14 fighters in the Air Force inventory. It has managed to get around the US imposed sanctions to acquire spare parts and keep the aircraft deployed and combat-ready. The same thing has happened in the oil industry. European companies have successfully stepped in to fill the void left by the United States and have brought their equipment in. Iran is one of few countries in the region to have its own aircraft, space, steel and nuclear power industries along with many other things. Summing it all up, one can say the negative results of the United States leaving the Iranian market in the post-revolutionary years are over and overcome, Iran has managed to stay on course. The Iranian leadership has no interest, at least not the political one, in getting US companies back. Recently Iran has announced a new plan to review the conditions of all the contracts related to oil production. The goal is to create more favorable conditions for investors. The deliberations on the reshaping of Iranian market have been taking place since last November. As the settlement of the Iranian problem is taking shape, the competition for the access to the Iranian market is getting stiffer. The United States has few chances to return there, so it will do its best to hinder the process and create obstacles on the way of Iran’s potential partners.
For instance, Reuters reported that Iran and Russia are negotiating an oil-for-goods swap worth $1.5 billion a month that would let Iran lift oil exports substantially in defiance of Western sanctions that helped force Tehran to agree a preliminary deal to end its nuclear program. There was a strong reaction from Washington: some senators threatened Iran with new sanctions and, probably, discriminatory measures against Russian banks. What all this agitation is about? Russia considers the sanctions imposed by the United States against Iran illegal, it has been stated a number of times at different levels. There is no whatsoever violation of international law making Russia free to pursue its interests based on the reasons of economic expediency.
The US-Israel coalition has acted together defending the imposition of sanctions against Iran. Now it is split. The reasons for justification of maintaining the sanctions regime are becoming more and more blur. Before the White House tried to convince the allies that the sanctions were indispensable to make Iran get to the negotiation table and discuss the nuclear program. After the intermediary agreement with Tehran was signed, the Washington’s arguments hold no water anymore. The European Court of Justice has ruled that the EU should unfreeze the assets of seven Iranian banks and other businesses hit by sanctions. It said there was insufficient evidence that the businesses concerned were involved in nuclear proliferation. There are other Iranian entities waiting for not guilty verdict.
The attempts by United states Congress to introduce new sanctions against Iran and the veto President Obama threatens to resort to in case the bill goes through is a kind of being behind the times, an inability to follow the progress of events. The United States has no wish to change the relationship with Iran. Americans are in some gloomy aberration of mind hoping against hope for the regime change in Iran at the time it marks the 35th anniversary of its existence; it rules one of the most important countries of the Middle East and is looking to the future.