Leading U.S. Magazine Foreign Policy:
WASHINGTON (Dispatches) -- U.S. President Donald Trump said on June 5 that Iran should not wait until after the presidential election "to make the Big deal,” but can get a "better deal” with him now. Trump’s remarks came after a recent prisoner swap, which saw detained U.S. Navy veteran Michael White released from Iran in exchange for Iranian doctor Majid Taheri. However, while Trump may want to negotiate with Iran and reinforce his self-avowed reputation as a deal-maker before the U.S. election, his "maximum pressure” policy has all but eliminated the chance for U.S.-Iranian diplomacy in the months to come, leading magazine Foreign Policy says. "Iran has proven resilient in the face of U.S. pressure,” it wrote on Friday.
While many ordinary Iranians are suffering, the economy is not in total free fall, as many in Washington hoped for. Instead, the country has shown signs of economic recovery, with domestic production and employment increasing, the publication added. According to Iran’s Central Bank chief Abdolnaser Hemmati, Iran’s nonoil gross domestic product grew by 1.1 percent last year. Prominent Iranian economist Saeed Laylaz also contends that Iran’s economy can weather the coronavirus pandemic and may experience growth this year despite the virus.
"Trump’s bellicose rhetoric and actions have not made Iran more inclined to do a deal, but they have undermined any Iranian officials who supported negotiations with the United States. Whether wittingly or not, Trump’s policy decisions have closed the potential for diplomacy,” FP said.
"The political cost one faces in Tehran for arguing in favor of negotiations is now simply too high. This is evident in how Iranian officials have reacted to the recent prisoner exchange.”
Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, one of the highest decision-making bodies in Iran, said in response to Trump’s offer for a deal, "The exchange of prisoners is not the result of negotiations & no talks will happen in the future.” Shamkhani’s remarks reflect a consistent line in Tehran: Negotiations with the United States are off the table. Even President Hassan Rouhani’s foreign minister, Muhammad Javad Zarif, and spokesperson Ali Rabiee now maintain that prisoner swaps can occur without negotiations.
According to FP, the situation was different just a few months ago. The only other time the United States and Iran exchanged prisoners under the Trump administration was in December 2019, when Iran released Xiyue Wang for Iranian scientist Masoud Soleimani. Unlike the recent White-Taheri exchange, the December swap also saw high-level meetings between U.S. and Iranian officials, a rare instance of bilateral U.S.-Iranian talks under the Trump administration. The United States has called for such a meeting again, but Iranian officials now accuse it of sabotaging diplomatic efforts.
Rouhani explicitly declared in the lead-up to the swap that Tehran had not ruled out talks, but the political climate in Iran has decisively turned hostile to any talk of negotiating with the United States.
Any hope that the positive diplomatic momentum built in late 2019 would lead to diplomatic progress between the United States and Iran was crushed in early January, with the U.S. assassination of Iranian military commander General Qassem Soleimani. Many millions thronged Iran’s cities calling for revenge after the terrorist act. Rouhani defiantly exclaimed in February: "They thought that with maximum pressure they can take us to the table of negotiation in a position of weakness … this will never happen.”
The political climate in Iran has since decisively turned hostile to any talk of negotiating with the United States, reestablishing a taboo that existed for years before the nuclear negotiations during the presidency of Barack Obama, the U.S. publication said.
With Trump’s re-election prospects up in the air, a heated UN meeting on Iran shows world powers’ fading fear of confronting the United States. Washington is seeking to extend a UN arms embargo that would eliminate any hope of revival.
"Negotiations and compromise with America, the focal point of global arrogance, are useless and harmful,” said Muhammad Baqer Qalibaf, Iran’s new parliamentary speaker, in his first speech to the body, "Our strategy toward the terroristic America is to complete our vengeance for the blood of the martyr Soleimani.”
Qalibaf, a former commander in the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps and an old friend of Soleimani, unsuccessfully ran against
Rouhani in both Iran’s 2013 and 2017 presidential elections. He assumed his parliamentary post in May, after parliamentary elections in February that swept conservatives to power.
"The total capture of parliament by conservatives cements the marginalization of reformists such as Rouhani and his allies that began after Trump scuttled the 2015 nuclear deal. Rouhani had sunk all his political capital into negotiating the accord and promised it would give the Iranian people major economic dividends,” FP said.
Qalibaf has now replaced Rouhani’s ally Ali Larijani as parliamentary speaker. Meanwhile, the judiciary, considered one of the three branches of government in Iran alongside the presidency and legislature, is being run by Rouhani’s other former 2017 rival, conservative cleric Ebrahim Raisi. The changing political winds are significant for the future of Iranian foreign policy, it added.
"Trump is mistaken if he believes ‘maximum pressure’ is getting him closer to a deal with Iran. The policy is not leading to Iran’s capitulation or collapse, but entrenching U.S.-Iran hostilities and keeping the United States perennially at the cusp of war in the Middle East,” the publication said.
"An alternative approach is possible but requires Trump to ditch maximum pressure and rebuild the trust necessary for successful negotiations. International relations and the real estate market are not similar. Bullying and bluster do not win deals; mutual respect and ‘win-win’ compromise do. Trump has styled himself as a deal-maker, but ahead of the November election he has zero foreign-policy victories to his name. If he wants any semblance of a positive foreign-policy legacy, he needs to get off the path to war and on a path to negotiations with Iran,” it added.