Iran's critique of confidence-building

2013 Presidency of The Islamic Republic of Iran, official photographer

Iran President Rouhani hosts a cabinet meeting on October 30, 2013.

Article Highlights

  • There is growing reason to doubt that Khamenei’s “heroic flexibility” includes a willingness to resolve the nuclear impasse.

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  • Iran does negotiate and it has in the past struck deals and stood by them, even after long periods of ideological antipathy.

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  • The norms of diplomacy as understood by the West and those envisioned by Iran often have very different philosophical bases.

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Since his August 2013 inauguration, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has waged a diplomatic campaign that has renewed hope that Tehran may be serious about negotiating resolution to the international dispute regarding its Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Safeguards Agreement and its uranium enrichment. That Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei seemingly blessed Rouhani’s outreach by speaking of Iran’s “heroic flexibility” has underscored the importance of Rouhani’s diplomatic offensive. However, there is growing reason to doubt that Khamenei’s “heroic flexibility” includes a willingness to resolve the nuclear impasse. Immediately following his mention of “heroic flexibility,” several aides to and associates of the Supreme Leader clarified that Khamenei blessed a change in tactics but not in policy.

The excerpted article in Kayhan provides more cause for concern regarding just how flexible Iran might be in nuclear negotiations. Kayhan is important for Iran-watchers because the Supreme Leader appoints its editor. Therefore, many believe it reflects the thinking of Khamenei more than other regime outlets. The following excerpts from a lengthy Kayhan column criticize the notion of confidence-building, which is a cornerstone of Western diplomacy. Generally speaking, the author equates confidence-building with compromise and perhaps acknowledgement of previous malfeasance. This, he suggests, means that Iran should refuse any concessions toward the West in forthcoming nuclear negotiations.

Iran does negotiate and it has in the past struck deals and stood by them, even after long periods of ideological antipathy. For example, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini agreed to and abided by a ceasefire ending the Iran-Iraq War even after swearing for years that Iran would not stop until its armies passed through Iraq and liberated Jerusalem. Yet columns such as those appearing in Kayhan should remind us that the norms of diplomacy as understood by the West and those envisioned by Iran often have very different philosophical bases.

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