THERE has been no shortage of analyses and opinions about the Iran nuclear deal over the last few days.
Most relied on a plethora of arguments that included the moral, pragmatic, technical, strategic, and even the “anthropological” – read Orientalist – arguments.
But where they did differ is in how these arguments were tailored, prioritised, or sequestered to corroborate or discredit the deal.
These observations come with two caveats. First, they don’t constitute a methodical study of any sort, nor focus on any particular analyst. I confess to reading most of the analyses about the deal on my smartphone. A bad habit.
And second, I take it for granted that in many cases, the arguments are based on premeditated ideological and political underpinnings.
The moral imperative
The use of the moral arguments is pervasive among the ideological detractors of the US president and the Iranian mullahs.
The first camp accuses US President Barack Obama of betraying the US and Israel by reaching the kind of deal that will empower the Iranian regime that has proved to be evil, authoritarian, cunning, malicious, malevolent, and most importantly, an unrepentant regime; one that remains terribly hostile to the US and Israel – a country it seeks to (allegedly) destroy.
The second camp ridicules a “hypocritical” Islamic republic for its appeasement and even its embrace of the “Great Satan” just as its revolutionary champions chant “Death to America”.
The moral arguments are the most sensational and the easiest to discredit, especially when those employing them are no less hypocritical.
No one cares to mention, for example, that Israel is the only nuclear power in the region with reportedly 100-200 nuclear warheads capable of reaching and destroying Iran.
States are generally motivated by interest not moral imperatives. And while appealing to the moral conscience of a nation is a worthy cause, I get the impression that most of those who speak of morals and nukes generally want to keep the nukes for themselves, and just in case, they want the freedom to kill Middle Easterners without the inhibition of a nuclear deterrence.
The Orientalist perspective
Equally lacking is the Orientalist perspective, especially when peddled by think-tank experts of the Middle East or experts of Middle Eastern origin who add zest and authenticity to a flawed, not to say racist, approach.
Such analysis attributes the differences in the negotiations’ strategies to contrasting cultures at the negotiating table – Western and Persian. They reckon behind the deal lies a temporal, pragmatic and utilitarian US mind-set on one side, and on the other side, an ancient, mystic, and at times, erratic Persian mind-set.
Pictures of US Secretary of State John Kerry biking through Vienna and of contemplative Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif during Friday prayers go a long way to delineate a contrasted image.
Some go as far as to explain the deal as a culmination of protracted negotiations between modern and ancient powers: Where Washington’s strategy is limited to a four-year cycle, while Tehran’s negotiations’ strategy is presumably historic in its breadth.
Perhaps this is an argument to be had, but there’s little doubt that the (Iranian President Hassan) Rouhani-Zarif camp is no less conscious of legacy, and far more worried about next year’s parliamentary elections than Obama-Kerry who are not even running in the next US elections.
The elected Iranian officials were quite mindful that success or failure of the negotiations is vital for their political credibility and the future of the country.
The realist/pragmatic take
The starting point here is that both Washington and Tehran are at an impasse and that both nations, albeit for different reasons, need to break out of this impasse and towards a better, more rewarding, situation.
Indeed, popularly elected Presidents Obama and Rouhani are seen as demonstrations of Americans and Iranians desiring to follow a less confrontational path than of previous Presidents George W Bush and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. ( Marwan Bishara )
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