Khamenei’s Red Lines - Will There Be A Deal?

Shitanshu Shekhar Shukla

Jul 11, 2015, 11:11 PM | Updated Feb 11, 2016, 10:22 AM IST

While the US is eager to lift sanctions on Iran with certain preconditions, Iranians are themselves not sure whether to accept such a pact. And the Arabs are relishing the sight of the talks failing.

The US-Iran civilian nuclear deal is stuck in the last stage just when both the countries were to have finally inked their agreement. The original deadline, 1 July, was extended to the 10th, and then to 13th. Uncertainty still looms large over the fate of the hard bargained N-deal. Much of the Arab region and Israel would be praying for the death of the deal. With a penchant for pinpricks and needling, coupled with hegemonic ambitions, Iran has made more enemies than friends in Arabia.

Yet, US President Barack Obama has expressed readiness to risk his legacy for the deal with Iran even at the cost of traditional allies like Israel and Saudi Arabia. So much so that Israel and Saudi Arabia are termed ‘frenemies’ for making Iran their common enemy.

There is even a report about a back channel brokered by as disparate players as India’s Shi’ites trying to break open a channel of communication between Saudi Arabia and Israel. The report claims that both Saudis and Israel appreciate the back channel parleys. So, the process will gather more steam every day. But that is another story.

At Camp David, Obama had to administer Saudis some plain speaking. Saudis have since fallen silent. However, neither Israel nor Saudis are reconciled to Iran winning Obama’s undivided attention. Saudis can’t be happier to see the N-deal killed by the Iranians themselves.

Their prayers seem to have found answers in the unlikeliest bosom — Iran’s supreme leader Ali Hosseini Khamenei. The supreme leader appears to have been carried by Obama’s enthusiasm for the N-deal.

The Atlantic correspondent Jeffrey Goldberg quoted Obama as saying in May,

“Look, 20 years from now, I’m still going to be around, God willing. If Iran has a nuclear weapon, it’s my name on this. I think it’s fair to say that in addition to our profound national security interests, I have a personal interest in locking this down.”

The US Republicans mock that Obama has over-learnt the lessons of Iraq invasion.

Khameni has all but thrown out of the window the Lausanne parameters of the N-deal. He believed that the US would take it upon itself to save the proposed pact. He would eat crow. I don’t think it is wise to think so poor of Obama, however, much pacifist he may be.

The New York Times has even quoted Obama as saying that he would reject an accord that called for “a few inspectors wandering around every once in a while”. No wonder, the negotiators on either side of the table are splitting their hair.

Hearing the raised pitch of voice from Iran, John Kerry, US secretary of state, reiterated that the Lausanne parameters for the nuclear agreement are not to be tampered with. Iran Foreign Minister Javad Zarif had to fly in and out of Iran to collect the latest pearls of Khamenei’s wisdom. Iranians are another side of the magic box. They want the deal, according to a survey, but not the bargain.

A poll, conducted jointly by the University of Maryland and University of Tehran’s Center for Public Opinion Research in association with the Toronto-based, found after surveying more than 1,000 Iranians in May that 57.4 per cent of them supported a “deal including restrictions on uranium enrichment and international inspections in return for sanctions relief, while 14.7 per cent opposed this idea.”

They are in agreement with Americans, 59 per cent of whom support a deal in principle.However, nearly 75 per cent of Iranian voters in the survey say they would “completely blame the P5+1 rather than Iran if negotiations fell.”

The Americans have also thrown their weight behind their president. Both the countries want a deal but their versions vary. Khamenei is not unaware that the red lines may put off P5+1. Neither can he be so naïve not to know the consequences of the deal falling flat. But his problems are the children of the Islamic Revolution.

Henry Kissinger, the former US secretary of state, once said that Iran has to decide if it wants to be a nation or a cause. Khamenei’s red lines are a poor reflection of an Iran eager to be both a nation and a cause falling between both the stools.

The author is a senior journalist and columnist.

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