Iran looks set to defy President Obama?s offer of engagement and the international community ?- including the EU -? will have to decide how to react. But what is Tehran thinking?
As Iran's defiance of President Obama's offer of engagement grows, the international community -- including the EU -- will have to decide how to react. On current form, a large part of 2010 may be taken up with this. One thing is how the West sees Iran and developments in Tehran since the US and Iranian presidential elections. But equally important is how Iran sees the West and what Tehran's leadership is being counseled to do. In the past weeks, President Ahmadinejad may have received a memo from the Revolutionary Guards, which may have looked something like this:
To: President Ahmadinejad
From: The Revolutionary Guards
Subject: The Zionist-Crusaders
Date: 22 November, 2009
As you will know, we are very concerned that the Zionist-Crusaders have been increasingly successful in marginalizing the Islamic Republic internationally and may even increase pressure on us to forgo our legitimate nuclear enrichment programme. After failing to organise a counter-revolutionary coup in summer, the US, Britain and Israel have worked tirelessly to undermine us. This memo aims to provide background on the current situation and proposes a course of action.
Our embassies in Moscow and Beijing have detected a change in mood in both capitals; despite protestation to the contrary, the diplomatic support of Russia and China at the U.N. Security Council can no longer be taken for granted. Of the two governments, we remain most concerned about Russia; Prime Minister Putin has assured Ambassador Ansari that it will be "business as usual", but President Medvedev has so far refused to see our envoy and has recently made a number of worrying statements. We believe President Obama's policy of splitting Putin from Medvedev may fail in all other aspects bar on the matter of Russia's Iran policy.
In Europe, the election of a centre-right coalition in Germany with Mrs Merkel at the helm is complicating our effort to split the EU. With her anti-Iranian, pro-Zionist speech to Congress, Mrs Merkel has joined French President Sarkozy in driving a hard-line Iran policy. As you know, Deutsche Bank, Commerzbank, Siemens, Dresdner have already dropped their investment plans in Iran. More companies can be expected to follow. Even threats to detain more French spies posing as journalists have not mollified the French government. Our ambassador in Paris, Seyed Mehdi Miraboutalebi, reports that it is almost as if the French president is deliberately choosing a hard-line stance to show himself apart from the US administration.
To be clear, we do not expect a seismic change of EU policy in the immediate future. To begin with, we will benefit from the departure of the EU's Javier Solana and the arrival of Catherine Ashton, who will take time to learn our diplomatic techniques. Our negotiator, Saeed Jalili, will be able to stall serious talks for a couple of months. But in the medium-term, change may be under way.
To deal with this new situation, we propose a three-track strategy focused on 1) creating an even bigger crisis; 2) gaining leverage over key anti-Iranian agitators and 3) working with China and pro-Iranian EU governments, like Italy, Austria, Bulgaria, and Romania to block, or render useless, any further economic sanctions.
In the first instance, we propose that you announce not only a continuation of our nuclear programme, but its expansion. The brazenness of such an announcement will paralyse the international community. To think through further options, we propose a teleconference with Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah to discuss how his holy fighters may be able to help us (Note: New arms shipments have recently arrived).
Second, we propose to repeat the 2007 tactic of capturing a few British, claim they were in Iranian waters and force them to "confess" to something, almost certainly in public and possibly before the television cameras. The weak British government, which lost its defence minister last time, will not want push ahead with negotiations until the Britons are freed. If coupled with threats, preferably from a cleric in Qom, that we will execute Mehdi Karroubi then we may undermine not only the British. (Note: We advise against actions against Mir Hussein Moussavi as we believe this may constitute a "Buddhas of Bamyan moment")
Finally, we propose that you instigate a "charm offensive" with pro-Iranian governments, including in the EU. In the countries where a visit by yourself may be imprudent, we propose sending another Iranian in your stead or dispatching an exhibition of Iranian art and artifacts, around which we can dispatch diplomats and perhaps even Marzieh Vahid Dastjerdi.
God is Great. Long Live the Iranian Revolution
[Hat tip: Thomas L. Friedman]
The European Council on Foreign Relations does not take collective positions. This commentary, like all publications of the European Council on Foreign Relations, represents only the views of its authors.