Iran’s mullahs and the start of negotiations

The Biden administration has come under increasing and accelerating Iranian pressure in recent days. Will it give in? Opinion.

Dr. Salem AlKetbi ,

Iran
Iran
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The last week has proven that the new US administration and the European trio (UK, Germany and France) have fallen prey to Iranian blackmail and threats, despite the “terms” they declared which many thought reflected the administration’s hesitation to give the mullahs a blank check on the nuclear deal.

The pace of Western measures aimed at satisfying the mullahs before the end of the deadline they gave the US to return to a nuclear agreement has accelerated. The latest Western “hustle” towards Tehran was the approval by the US to take part in the talks between Iran and international powers to resurrect the nuclear deal.

State Department spokesperson Ned Price said the US had accepted the EU’s invitation to participate in talks with Iran. EU diplomat Enrique Mora, who proposed to start the dialogue, said that “this is a crucial moment” for the accord.

What is remarkable here is that Iran itself has not officially responded to the European proposal to resume talks. It has even gone for a new episode of blackmail and haggling through a tweet from the Iranian Foreign Minister. Mohammad Javad Zarif said that his country would not fully comply with the agreement until US sanctions are lifted.

A first look at what has happened shows that the Biden administration has come under increasing and accelerating Iranian pressure in recent days. The Iranian government has threatened to prevent international inspections of its nuclear sites in coming days if the US does not drop sanctions.

The US and its European allies (Britain, France and Germany) soon called on Iran to refrain from blocking inspections. They simply issued a joint warning, saying only that it would be “dangerous.”

What is clear from these rapid developments is that early indicators suggest that the Biden administration is not sufficiently geared up to manage a crisis with a manipulative and deceitful adversary that most administration officials are supposed to be familiar with.

They have sufficient knowledge of the mullahs’ psychology and their methods of evading, bypassing obligations, stalling and dragging down other parties, especially since the arrival of US Special Envoy for Iranian Affairs Robert Malley.

Malley was the architect of the 2015 nuclear deal as a key member of Obama’s negotiating team. The ball is now in the American and European camp. The mullahs have taken the lead, trapping Western powers in a critical corner after positions have switched.


The mullahs, who were on a miserable and unenviable defensive, turned to the offensive a few weeks ago. Their negotiating tactics quickly changed.
The mullahs, who were on a miserable and unenviable defensive, turned to the offensive a few weeks ago. Their negotiating tactics quickly changed.

They managed to jump from one scenario to the other thanks to persistent and growing threats to reduce nuclear commitments, and to hint at the option of acquiring a nuclear bomb, as Iranian Security Minister Mahmoud Alavi pointed out, warning that continued Western pressure would push Tehran into self-defense, such as the pursuit of nuclear weapons.

This is a carefully calculated Iranian threat that may have left a strong impression on the new US presidential team. In reality, the mullahs have gained a surprisingly rapid advantage over Western powers in particular. Whatever the next move for these powers, their submission to Iranian pressure will remain an influential factor in the next stages.

In a previous article, I warned of the danger of brinkmanship politics the mullahs know how to play in any negotiations with the West. I also warned about the reluctance and complacency of the European trio to confront Iran’s inflammatory behavior.

But the West keeps repeating the same mistakes. It always resorts to the carrot when dealing with the mullahs.

The mullahs have returned to their boorish rhetoric since the end of former President Trump’s term of office. They are fully aware that President Biden has made diplomacy the one and only option for dealing with a regime that does not respond to diplomatic rationality as long as it is able to achieve major strategic gains.

This is what comes out of the statement by Amir-Abdullahian, Assistant to the Chairman of the Iranian Shura Council. “We will certainly not wait for meetings, photos and empty promises from the White House and the European trio,” he said, warning against abandoning the IAEA Additional Protocol after the deadline for eliminating sanctions against Iran expires.


Negotiations with other rogue states show that the stick and the carrot must go hand in hand. Why is the US administration unexpectedly bowing to Iranian pressure and threats?
Moreover, experiences in negotiations with other rogue states show that the stick and the carrot must go hand in hand. Why is the US administration unexpectedly bowing to Iranian pressure and threats? This intriguing question worries many observers, who fear that concessions will continue to be made, as they have been in the past.

The mullahs have taken advantage of the transition period in the US to bank up what could serve as a basis for mutual concessions in the framework of the expected negotiations. These include the return to the uranium enrichment rates stipulated in the nuclear deal and the abandonment of uranium production at the Isfahan reactor. The same goes for the scenario of acquiring a nuclear bomb.

Negotiations would focus on the mullahs’ return to the nuclear agreement that existed before the US exit, not on key issues such as the expansion of Iran’s influence, its regional role and engaging neighboring countries in any future talks.

My conclusion is that the chief obstacle to crisis management with Iran’s mullahs is the lack of alternative diplomatic scenarios. The mullahcracy is not a normal and rational regime that can realize the value of diplomacy in managing this sensitive crisis. It is a system that feeds on crises.

It has no other project than military expansionism, which devours all the resources of the Iranian people to bankroll arms and militias serving its sectarian ideology.

Dr. Salem AlKetbi is a UAE political analyst and former Federal National Council candidate



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