Since its clear that our administration needs some ‘help’ in navigating a pathway to normalization with Iran’s mullahs, here is some (unsolicited) advice for the Trump/Pompeo team. America’s goal should be normalization between US (and its allies) and Iran.
This means the US should ask for:
- A toning down of the rhetoric on both sides (Stop all the talk about Death to USA, etc. and Nuking Iran, etc.)
- A toning down of the defense postures (find some way to point missiles away from US bases and allies)
- A toning down of activity by Iranian regional proxies (Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, Bahrain etc.)
- Opening embassies directly in each other’s capitals.
- Protections for US and Dual Citizen travel to and from Iran
- Protection for vessel traffic in Persian Gulf
- Support for Afghan and Iraqi redevelopment; including a significant effort to cut Opiate exports (fully 70% of Afghan opiates comes through Iran, and much of it is on the streets in the north America)
- To participate in an Iran-Turkey-Pakistan regional power center for U.S. in Central Asia to counter Chinese/Russian/German alliance.
- Cut off relations with North Korea, Venezuela, Cuba (other American foes)
- Some ‘process’ to improve human rights, and democracy in Iran
In return, the US should be willing to:
- Fire John Bolton, sideline MEK and other opposition forces (including Satellite TV stations) – and even U.S. politicians that have been nasty to Iranians (Graham, Cotton, Gingrich, Giuliani etc.). This by the way will buy the U.S. a lot of credibility with the Iranians.
- Relaxation of travel / visa programs; and direct flights – allow Iranian airlines to become major competitors to UAE/Qatar airlines
- Removal of sanctions, sale of planes
- Enabling Iranian direct gas and other product sales to Europe and India i.e. support for a direct pipeline to Europe and India to complement to Saudi, Qatari, Azeri and Israeli lines.
- Increased trade and investment in Iran (US companies to invest in Iran – Auto, Gas Turbines etc. US companies to invest in Iran’s oil and gas sector)
- Open trade with Israel and enable direct physical traffic and supply infrastructure across Iran and it’s regional allies to Europe, China and India.
- Open trade with Saudi Arabia, Qatar etc. and enable direct physical traffic and supply infrastructure across Iran and its regional allies to Europe, China and India.
- Establishment of a major regional economic and political hub in Iran for the whole Central Asian regional economic development (since Dubai is a British Hub, US is willing to consider a new American Hub in Iran)
- Have a future ‘balanced’ regional role with parallel relationships with Iran and Saudi Arabia and their spheres of influence (without picking favorites); and operate ‘’two” regional economic zones (the Central Asian region centered in Iran, and an Arab Region centered in Saudi Arabia).
There should be NO talk of stuff that has already been covered in the JCPOA. US position should be that JCPOA wasn’t enough and did NOT lead to normalization – because Iran (Khamenei) rebuffed efforts by Obama administration to re-start relations. The idea is that there must be a pathway to a transformational shift in the relationship.
If Iran plays, Russian gas supply to Europe can be ‘cut’! The Germans will have a route to future gas supply from other sources and can come back into the U.S. fold. China can be slowly, but surely peeled away from an Axis with Russia. If Iran doesn’t play, it will basically spell the end of American supremacy – and the eventual decline of the Saudi-Israeli-US-UK axis.
The big question is – will Iran’s Mullahs trust the Trump administration? Can Iran’s Mullahs trust the Trump administration? Or, will they put their faith into a future with Putin and Xi? The problem here is that Republicans (especially) have been so vocal and nasty with Iranians and Iran (even Iranians in the U.S.) that it would be a very difficult to sell Iranians on this. Republicans just can’t walk back their insults. Iranians are very proud and have long memories.
The story of Iran’s relationship with Iran is filled with ‘betrayal’ by Americans. There are many in Iran – especially hardliners – who lost friends and family members in battles sponsored by the U.S. They remember US supplied chemical weapons in the Iran-Iraq war, US supplied arms to ISIS, US supplied arms and bombs used by Israel and Saudi Arabia…
Very objectively, the US has not been a ‘saint’ in the region and has undermined Iran and Iranians at every turn. It’s been an American sponsored hell for Iranians for over 40 years.
Why should they trust America? Oh, and, by the way, the Russians, Chinese, and Europeans have ‘their’ people inside Iran’s administration. Are Russians, Chinese and Europeans going to just sit there and let this happen? And they can argue powerfully that it was their willingness to work with Iran that kept Iran alive during America’s economic war against Iran! Whatever happened to Trump’s cozy relationship with Putin?
Trump’s trip to Japan and Britain was designed to set the stage and have ‘their’ people lobby for this. But its an uphill battle. There is a lot of bad blood. A lot of betrayal. A lot of lost American credibility. But my recommendation is to start ‘from’ the JCPOA, not try to replace it. And, I would also recommend a statement or two about how this is the best pathway to improve the lives of Iranians and influence positive change in the regime in Iran TOWARDS DEMOCRACY – rather than open hostility and war (so the people of Iran don’t feel they have been sold out to the Mullahs [again]).
Trump and Pompeo need to be very careful with HOW they talk to Iranians. First of all it must be with respect. And it can’t be with the Mafiosi style Pompeo used with the North Koreans – if you don’t negotiate we’ll nuke you! (It might make Pompeo feel good and powerful, but it won’t work). But the tactic that was smart was bringing Kim Jong-Un to Singapore and Vietnam to show him the prosperity he could have. Meet up in Dubai, Meet up in Doha … tell them you want to see Tehran, Mashad and Tabriz become Doha, or Dubai or Dharan! Make a real commitment to Iranian well-being and prosperity. It is okay to say, something like, the US can’t sit back and let a German-Russian-Chinese alliance form and will do whatever it has to protect its interests. But Iranians are too proud for threats. I sometimes disagree with Zarif, but he is right when he says ‘try respect’!
I am hoping for a breakthrough. It will require real commitment on both sides to push back against all the negativity. If Trump is a deal maker – this will be his real test! I would go one step further and suggest that if he can pull this off with Iran, North Korea will be an easier deal! And like domino’s Venezuela and possibly even Syria could fall right into America’s lap. Its a ‘big deal’!