President Trump’s belligerent approach in muddying the water with Iran is yet another ploy to remain true
to populist promises he made to right wing audiences – at home and abroad - in the course of his 2016 campaign
for the White House.
However, despite all his rhetoric, what remains obscure at the end of the day is what is to be gained by ‘decertification of the nuclear agreement’ and how such a move is likely to chastise Iran while enhancing US or Western interests?
The truth of the matter is that since the ratification of the nuclear deal in July 2015, Iran despite having complied with all its obligations, has continued to suffer from persistent US obstructions that have essentially prevented international banking and financial institutions from actively participating in what is generally believed to be the world’s largest foreign investment market. Hence, all ‘antics’ aside, the only real difference in US position vis-à-vis Iran is that while the Obama administration made promises that it did not keep, President Trump intends on passing the buck to Congress so that it can then re-impose the kind of robust measures, which the Treasury Department under his predecessors had never removed.
What is even more unclear is how exactly the pursuit of such gratuitous belligerency which could potentially result in the cancellation of the nuclear agreement benefit the US, its allies and the cause of non-proliferation at a time when all parties are engaged in a serious crisis over international security with North Korea. Trump’s message is clearly in contradiction to positions enunciated by all senior military officials as well as his key cabinet members who have spoken on the record about the need to honor the commitments which the US has made in conjunction with Russia, China, France Britain and Germany to the nuclear agreement that has also been endorsed by the UN Security Council.
Moreover, Trump’s actions in this regard will not even satisfy regional players such as Israel or Saudi Arabia who see this empty and inconsequential gesture on the part of the US President as a ploy for not living up to the kind of expectations he had created in advance of his election. In the case of Israel, such a ploy that is incapable of making any material short to mid-term difference to Iran’s overall strategic disposition in the region, is hardly any compensation for not moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem or openly validating Israeli settlement policies in the occupied territories. For Saudi Arabia, Trump’s ‘bad mouthing’ of the Iranian regime in the absence of any direct military action against Iranian targets, falls way short of the kind of US support that would help resurrect their fortunes from the downward spiral of their bankrupt policies on Yemen and Qatar while Iran consolidates its position in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.
There is no question that Trump’s exacerbation of a situation that hinders the flow of capital and investments needed for economic reconstruction into Iran will seriously affect the lives of millions of ordinary Iranians who had hoped that on the back of the nuclear agreement, the road would be paved for further agreements with the West that would assist Iran’s complete rehabilitation and reintegration into the world community.
Sadly the Iranian people’s overwhelming support for the re-election of Hassan Rouhani in the recent presidential election in face of hardline elements bent on frustrating his moderate and progressive agenda, is being rewarded by policies and pronouncements that enhances the position of only those who want to emulate the North Korean model in dealing with the US.
In the final analysis, any move to dismantle the nuclear deal will not have the support of world public opinion or that of any of the other major signatories to that agreement. It will only relinquish the high moral ground to Iran, leaving the US as the isolated party.
Dr. Mehrdad Khonsari is a former Iranian diplomat and a Senior Consultant at the ‘Iranian Centre for Policy Studies’.
The alternative spells bad news.
The anti-Iran rhetoric employed by self-serving politicians in the US, mostly aims to cash in on years of built up anti-Iranian sentiments amongst their general public. There is no question that the Islamic regime bears a great deal of responsibility for this precarious situation due to more than three decades of provocative and at times militant behaviour. Nonetheless, it is generally accepted that this situation has been seriously reversed since the departure of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the advent of the Rouhani presidency in 2013.
While many senior world leaders have embraced Iran's new disposition, the same cannot be said of the US, where "Iran bashing" continues to remain a choice option for enhancing one's domestic popularity.
The resulting change in Iran's demeanor has already reduced a major source of international tension as well as Iran's isolation in the aftermath of the nuclear agreementthat was concluded with the '5+1' in July 2015. While many senior world leaders have since embraced Iran's new disposition, the same cannot be said of the US, where "Iran bashing" — under whatever circumstance — continues to remain a choice option for enhancing one's domestic popularity. This kind of disingenuous behaviour on the part of many leading American politicians continues despite "known" realities such as the fact that neither Iran nor any Shiites have ever been involved in any fatal terror attacks carried out in America or Europe. At the same time, these leaders remain solemnly silent about the fact that thousands of American and European citizens in the past two decades have been murdered at the hands of Sunni radicals from "friendly" American "partners" in the Middle East.
Apart from failing to promote better Iran-US ties, the inability on the part of leading US policymakers to shrug off their "Iran-phobic" tendencies — much to the delight of President Rouhani's hardline opponents in Iran — has not only dangerously increased regional tensions but it has also led to new schisms within the Arab world following the ostracising of Qatar and the possible dismantlement of the GCC by Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain and Egypt. Apart from hosting the only Arab media outlet not directly or indirectly controlled by the Saudis, thereby airing "radical views" in support of the "Muslim Brotherhood", Qatar's other alleged main folly has been its failure to adopt a hostile posture towards Iran.
Their "Iran-phobic" tendencies — much to the delight of President Rouhani's hardline opponents in Iran — has not only dangerously increased regional tensions but it has also led to new schisms within the Arab world...
This sorry state of affairs descends to the ridiculous when a number of leading US political figures such as Senator John McCain, Mayor Rudi Giuliani and Ambassador John Bolton accept dubious speaking engagements and openly call for the overthrow of the Iranian regime, expressing their unswerving support for a muchdespised cult organisation (the Mojahedin Khalq or MEK). It is interesting to note that while these people keep blasting Iran for being the foremost "state sponsor of terrorism" — at a time when everyone acknowledges that non-state actors such as ISIS and Al Qaeda present the main international threat from terrorism — they are somehow "induced" to overlook the past history of their generous hosts who until recently were on the US (and EU) list of terrorist organisations and bear direct responsibility for murdering Americans in Iran. Today, the priority must surely lie in trying to defuse the dangerous crisis confronting the Middle East from North Africa to Syria, Yemen and the Persian Gulf. Only through dialogue and compromise — to start with between Iran and Saudi Arabia — can the escalation of the current crisis and the dangerous "war of words" in the Persian Gulf region and the Middle East be contained. At a time when the Iranians have repeatedly indicated their desire for such talks, it would be a mistake for "Iran-phobic" politicians in the US to jeopardise regional peace and stability by tacitly supporting intransigent Arabs and Israelis, bent on demonising and punishing Iran at any cost.
"Post-revolution, evolutionary Iran" (i.e. with radicalism on the wane and political reform on the rise) is much more on the right side of history than most others in the region...
The West, in particular the US, also needs to show greater appreciation for the fact that "post-revolution, evolutionary Iran" (i.e. with radicalism on the wane and political reform on the rise) is much more on the right side of history than most others in the region—irrespective of how many arms they buy. Also the failure of democracy following the "Arab Spring" is not a justification for perpetuating autocracy. Hence, it is highly important for all in the West to encourage and promote regional dialogue while keeping a balanced position between the quarreling sides that is cognizant of their legitimate interests.
This article was published in ‘Huffington Post’ on 18th July 2017
The open manifestation of an ‘American-Sunni’ coalition against Iran with huge anti-Shia intonations around
the region and particularly in Iraq, where the incumbent Shia government in Baghdad is supposedly a close ally
of the United States does nothing to promote peace, stability and coexistence in the region.
Such an orchestration, designed to prop up a Saudi regime beset by serious internal squabbling along with an array of social and economic problems exacerbated by a military quagmire of its own making in Yemen, can neither contain Iran nor prevent previously disenfranchised Shias from Afghanistan and Pakistan to the shores of the Mediterranean in Syria and Lebanon, where they constitute more than 40% of the total population from having their say.
Despite the $350 billion ‘tribute’ paid by the Saudis that included the purchase of more than $100 billion of unwanted weaponry to the financially drained Kingdom, it is unlikely that in the final analysis, their reward will serve any purpose beyond the ‘photo opportunity’ that exhibited so many Sunni Arab leaders humbling themselves around President Trump.
Having secured his expected ‘tribute’ from the Arabs, President Trump then travelled to Israel and much to the chagrin of Israeli leaders, skirted around their key issues, such as continued US opposition to Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory or moving the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem by simply harping on the exaggerated anti-Iran rhetoric carried over from Riyadh.
Meanwhile, as this surreal and mendacious ‘US-Sunnis-Israeli Grand Coalition’ was being projected, the people of Iran were celebrating the re-election of President Hassan Rouhani who in the course of the past 4 years has stirred Iran away from his predecessor’s path of wanton agitation and lunacy, having most importantly taken the strident steps necessary for ending Iran’s nuclear stand off with the international community.
Repeated labeling of Iran as the ‘biggest state sponsor of terrorism’ or assertions such as ‘Iran’s provocative and unacceptable behavior in the region’ - especially under the presidency of Hassan Rouhani, simply lacks the thrust and luster that it once had in the 1980s and the 1990s. It is a fact that since 911, non-state actors such as Al Qaeda and more recently ISIS have almost completely monopolized the terrorism threat directed against the West and in the case of ISIS with equal venom again Iran and more generally Shias in the region.
Therefore, it is surreal to watch Saudi Arabia and its Wahhabi cronies exonerating themselves from any association with various acts of terrorism carried out against people in the West during the past two decades and falsely levying the blame on Shias in general and Iran in particular. This clear deception, camouflaged and sweetened by payments of billions of dollars of tribute to the US, becomes even more surreal in view of the fact that there has never been any evidence of Iranian or Shia involvement in any of the attacks that have been carried out in Europe or America.
It is even more ironic that at a time when the Iranian people have so blatantly exhibited their preference for moderation and peaceful coexistence by soundly silencing those who continue to advocate radicalism and confrontation, such an outrageous and unwarranted display of open hostility should be orchestrated against them.
So far, Iranian reaction to these unwarranted provocations has remained relatively moderate. Thus instead of continuing such rash policies that only increase tension and instability in the region, it would seem more prudent that steps should be taken to encourage dialogue and diplomacy in order to defuse tension and prevent further division and misunderstanding.
While there is undeniable validity in some of the past Saudi grievances voiced against the Islamic Republic, it is important to note that since the advent of the Rouhani government, Iran’s entire demeanor has undergone a fundamental shift, thereby allowing dialogue and diplomacy to play a decisive role.
The re-election of Rouhani who has pledged to remove non-nuclear sanctions through diplomacy offers a unique opportunity for the US to resume its dialogue with Iran, while both Iran and Saudi also need to manage their differences, much like they did prior to the Iranian revolution. Surreal exhibitions, such as those exhibited in Riyadh instead of reducing tension, stopping carnage and restoring much needed peace in places like Syria and Yemen, only widen differences by adversely exposing the region to further divisions and external meddling.
This article was published in ‘Open Democracy’ on 8th June 2017
Born in Tehran, Iran, Mehrdad Khonsari is an Iranian politician and former diplomat. After completing his
undergraduate and postgraduate degrees at Georgetown University and The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy
in the USA, Khonsari began his career as a diplomat, and entered politics shortly after the Iranian Revolution
in 1979. He later (1995) obtained his PhD from the London School of Economics. An active student of international
politics, Khonsari was a Senior Research Consultant at the Centre for Arab and Iranian Studies in London from
Mehrdad Khonsari received his primary and secondary schooling in Iran, Ireland, France, England and the United States where he was awarded a high school diploma in 1967 from Bellaire Senior High School in Houston, Texas. Mehrdad Khonsari next attended New York University to study Electrical Engineering before transferring to the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University in Washington, DC were in 1972 he received his undergraduate degree (Bachelor of Science in Foreign Service). Following his entry into the Iranian Foreign Service, he was later sent on a scholarship to The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy where he completed his master's degree in 1976 which was followed in 1978 with an M.A.L.D. (Master of Art in Law and Diplomacy). Although Mehrdad Khonsari was admitted to the Fletcher School’s PhD program, the completion of his thesis was disrupted by the advent of the Iranian Revolution. However, having switched to the London School of Economics and Political science (LSE), he was able to obtain his PhD in the field of International Relations in 1995.
Having begun his internship at the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1968 (serving in Tehran, Washington and the UN in New York), and having passed the MFA’s entrance examinations, Mehrdad Khonsari began his diplomatic career in 1972. From 1973-75, prior to being posted to the Iranian Mission to the United Nations, he served as a member of the Secretariat of the Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs. In 1977, he was transferred to the Iranian Embassy in London where he also became a Visiting Research Fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies. In June 1978 he was placed in charge of the Embassy’s Cultural Section prior to becoming Press Attaché following the start of unrest leading to the Iranian Revolution. Following the execution of former Foreign Minister, Abbas Ali Khalatbari, Mehrdad Khonsari ended his diplomatic career by resigning from the Iranian Foreign Ministry. During his period as an Iranian diplomat, Mehrdad Khonsari also served as a member of the Iranian delegation to the 23rd, 24th, 25th, 29th and 31st Sessions of the UN General Assembly in New York; the ‘Summer Sessions’ of the UN Economic & Social Council, July-Aug 1976 and July–August 1977; as well as the 10th Special Session of the UN General Assembly on Disarmament May–July 1978.
From 1979-1984, Mehrdad Khonsari worked as a Consultant in International Affairs for the Saudi Arabian multinational business organization, the ‘Shobokshi Group’  while at the same serving as the Managing Director of the UK based Middle Eastern Charitable Trust, the ‘Avicenna Foundation’ (which was later transformed into the ‘Centre for Arab and Iranian Studies’ where Mehrdad Khonsari was ‘Senior Research Fellow’ from 1992-2010). Since 1984, Mehrdad Khonsari has been an Iranian political activist having served as an Adviser to Prime Minister Shapour Bakhtiar (1984–87) and Reza Pahlavi, the former Crown Prince of Iran (1987-1991). Since 1991, he has served as Secretary General of ‘Front Line’ -the Constitutionalist Movement of Iran (1991-2010), Member of the ‘Iran Referendum Campaign (2004-2005) and as Secretary General of Green Wave (2010-2014). Since January 2015, Mehrdad Khonsari is Secretary General of the newly established but currently inactive ‘Organization for Economic Reconstruction and National Reconciliation (BAAM).
Mehrdad Khonsari was a ‘Visiting Research Fellow’ at the International Institute For Strategic Studies (1978). In 1977 and 1978, he had travelled to Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, U.A.E., Saudi Arabia and Yemen on research mission for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the subject of ‘Iran-Arab Relations’ and how best to expand and enhance them in the future. Mehrdad Khonsari was Editor of the London-based Iranfile, an independent monthly analysis of current affairs and ‘Khate Moghaddam’ with special emphasis on economics and politics. Apart from numerous TV broadcasts and articles in Persian  and English, he has conducted extensive research  and participated in many international conferences in various countries in Europe, North America, the Middle East  and the South Caucuses. From 2005-2008, he was Managing Director of Payam Azadi TV (based in Los Angeles) and from 2012-2014, he was Chairman of the Board of Governors of ‘Raha TV’, a London-based satellite television station operating for audiences in Iran. For 2 years, Mehrdad Khonsari as the only guest of the weekly program ‘Bardashte Dovom’, provided up to date commentary and analysis concerning various aspects of political realities in Iran.
Mehrdad Khonsari is a Senior Consultant and a founding member of the “Iranian Centre for Policy Studies’ established in France in 2017.
Born in Babol, Iran, Mohammad Jawad Akbarin is an Iranian writer and journalist who currently resides in France.
He is also a respected theological scholar having studied under the tutelage of Eminent ‘Shia Sources of Emulation’
(‘Marjas’) such as Grand Ayatollahs ‘Abdollah Javadi Amoli’, and ‘Hossein Ali Montazeri, while being hugely influenced
in his earlier days by the thinking of two major Iranian theological scholars of the late 1990’s, Mohammad Mojtahed
Shabestari and Abdolkarim Soroush.
Akbarin began learning Arabic literature in 1988 at ‘Elmieh Rouhie’ (Mirzaki) in Babol. That is where he familiarised himself with the bases of the Islamic culture and increased his general knowledge of Islam (Fegh).
In 1992, he started religious and spirituality studies in Qum. His most important teaching scholars during his years of religious studies were Grand Ayatollahs ‘Abdollah Javadi Amoli’, and ‘Hossein Ali Montazeri’. From 1992-2002, he participated in the ‘Koran Interpretation’ classes of Grand Ayatollah Abdollah Javadi Amoli.
In 2004, he immigrated to Lebanon where he pursued his Islamic training with Ayatollah Seyed Mohammad Hossein Fazlollah.
He obtained a bachelors degree on the subject of ‘Religion, Science and Philosophy’ from the Islamic Azad University of Tehran, a ‘Master of Islamic Science’ from ‘Beirut Islamic Research University’ in Lebanon and a PhD on the subject of ‘Analysis and Interpretation of the Koran’ from the Islamic Research University of Cairo in Egypt.
He was a researcher in Tehran between 1993 and 1997 and studied in particular, western culture and the works of the German philosopher, Martin Heidegger. He was also greatly influenced by the thoughts of two major Iranian thinkers at of the late 1990’s, Mohammad Mojtahed Shabestari and Abdolkarim Soroush.
Apart from being a regular contributor to many publications, Akbarin’s journalistic background has included the following associations:
2014– Member of the International Federation of Journalists. Member of the Editorial Board of the monthly analytical magazine «Mihan», published Paris
2012-2014 Editor in chief of the online newspaper «Rahe Digar»
2012-2014 Editor-in-Chief of the London based, Persian ‘News and Analysis] Satellite TV Station, ‘Raha TV’.
2011 Editor–in-chief of the online newspaper «Mihan»
2010 Journalist, Online newspaper «Deutsche Welle»
2009-2010 Member of the Editorial Board of the Online newspaper «Jarass» linked to the ‘Green Movement’
2009- Writer, journalist and editor for the Online newspapers «Roozonline»
2009 Close collaboration with the Beirut based TV channel, ‘Future TV’
2008 Member of the digital staff of the Beirut based newspaper, «Al Mostaqbal»
2005 Collaboration with the Beirut based newspaper «Al Nahar»
2003 A selected Judge for the religious category of ‘the National Iranian Press Competition’
1998-2003 Member of the Editorial Board of the weekly Tehran based newspapers, «Gounagoun», ‘Chel-Cheragh, ‘Salaam’, ‘Sobhe Emrouz’. ‘Fath’, ‘Bayan’, ‘Bahar’ and ‘Nowrouz’
2001-2002 Secretary of ‘the Clerical Student Assembly of the Followers of the Line of Imam [Khate-e-Emam]’, 2002-2004 Secretary of the Qum Branch of the reformist ‘Islamic Participation Party’ (‘Jebheye Mosharekat’)
Imprisonment and Exile
2000-2001 In spring 2000, following the publication of four critical newspaper editorials in ‘Sobhe Emrooz’, ‘Fath’, ‘Bayan’ and ‘Bahar’, M. J. Akbarin was summoned to the offices of the ‘Special Clerical Prosecution Office’ in Qum. Following a brief investigation, he was ‘tried’ on charges of ‘propagating against the ruling order’. In the absence of his lawyer and a valid trial by jury, in violation of the prevailing laws pertaining to press and political trials, he was sentenced to a prison term of 1 year. Objection to this ruling voiced by the ‘Human Rights Committee’ of the Sixth Islamic Parliament was subsequently overruled.
2002 40 days after his release from incarceration that had begun at Qum’s Central Prison in January 2002, he was once again summoned by the “Clerical Court’ of Isfahan and placed in custody on charges pertaining to a ‘critical speech’ he had made at party meeting (‘Jebheye Mosharekat’) in ‘Shahr Reza’.
2007 Summoned again by a Tehran court on charges pertaining to his provocative writings on the need for gender equality with emphasis on criticizing a long established tradition of promoting ‘male domination of women’ (‘Roozonline’, 08/03/07). As a result, he was once again placed in custody just as he was about to board a plane returning him to Lebanon. He was then banned from leaving the country and the special ‘Clerical Court’ in Qum summoned him for a new series of interrogations without specifying charges levied against him. Fear of further arbitrary imprisonment forced him to clandestinely flee Iran for Lebanon via Iraqi Kurdistan in winter 2007.
2009 Working with the local media in Lebanon, following his critical reviews of the 2009 Iranian presidential election, he was subjected to serious threats by the Iranian embassy in Beirut, forcing him to flee Lebanon for France with the aid of ‘RSF’ (Reporters Without Borders).
2009- Consistent Researcher on Middle East and Islamic Studies.
The mission of ICPS, established in 2017, is to provide an accurate examination of events that shape Iranian
domestic and foreign policy with the distinct aim that its analysis may help the adoption of policies that best
promote and protect the national interest of the Iranian nation.
The complex circumstances in the region and the world in recent years and its implications on Iranian politics, especially in the aftermath of the nuclear agreement, have hurled Iran into a new era much different than the past.
This new era has three distinct features:
1. The increasing empowerment of technocrats, committed to regional peace and stability, and insistent upon establishing a constructive relationship with the outside world.
2. The rising status of educated middle classes and their demands
3. The increasingly more important role that is played by social media and Internet communications in the world.
In times, when both the Iranian political scene as well as events in the broader international community is witnessing a process of fundamental transition, simple reliance upon traditional findings based on out-dated analytical yardsticks only leads to simplified deductions that are clearly inadequate. Failure to understand constantly changing developments, can thus lead to serious miscalculations, which can in turn deprive Iran, the region and the wider world of rare opportunities for promoting non-violent and progressive change in Iran along with peaceful and constructive relations in the region.
There are a number of important research centres within Iran charged with the task of collecting facts and providing policy analysis. However, due to the fact that they are mostly tied with various governmental institutions, they are understandably restricted in providing the kind of unbiased and objective reporting that is neither contained nor restricted because of certain obvious boundaries.
ICPS through its connections with highly respected international experts and credible ‘Think Tanks’ around the world as well as its own host of experts both inside and outside Iran, intends to fill this vacuum. This will be done through the production of daily, weekly and monthly briefs (on demand in 4 languages: Farsi, English, Arabic and French) as well as the organization of conferences and seminars (including ‘web-seminars’) with the participation of key experts on subjects of national importance concerning the future of Iran (all to be subsequently posted on the Centre’s website).