‘Iran’s position strengthening while US in decline’

Iran’s vow to never develop nuclear arms appeared to be an olive branch extended America’s way. But it is Washington, and not Tehran who needs all the friends it can get these days, Professor Seyed Mohhamad Marandi from the University of Tehran told RT.

On Wednesday, Iran’s new president Hassan Rouhani said of the Islamic Republic, “under no circumstances would we seek any weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons, nor will we ever.”

Underscoring Rouhani’s concerted efforts to kick start negotiations over its controversial uranium enrichment program with the West, US President Barack Obama and Rouhani exchanged letters. This followed recent elections in Iran and the two leaders may meet on the margins of the UN general assembly next week.

Rouhani, who took office in August, also ordered the release of Nasrin Sotoudeh, an Iranian human rights lawyer, and a number of other political prisoners on the eve of a visit to the United Nations.

The White House has thus far reacted positively towards these overtures, with White House spokesman Jay Carney saying “there is an opportunity for diplomacy when it comes to the issues that have presented challenges to the United States and our allies with regards to Iran."

Professor Marandi says that while the onus has been put on Tehran to return to the Western fold, it is Washington who needs Iran to help fix the mess it’s made in the region.

RT: Iran has always said that it would construct nuclear weapons. So why the apparently enthusiastic reaction from the US now?

Seyed Mohhamad Marandi: It’s hard to say, it really should be asked why the United States didn’t respond earlier because this is what the Iranians have been saying all along. But still I think the Iranians are quite willing to see if the apparent enthusiasm will lead to any change in US policy; that’s the important thing. What the Iranians are doing right now is saying ‘look, we are going to preserve our sovereign rights as an independent country, we will continue with our peaceful nuclear program, we’ve never disregarded international law, there’s no evidence of that, but we are willing to create a new favorable environment for negotiations. So basically what the Iranians have done is put the ball firmly in the American’s court, where it’s been for quite a while, but they’re doing this basically for the international community to see, and it’s now for the United States to respond.

So far the United States has responded negatively. As soon as Mr Rouhani became president [Washington] slapped on new sanctions, now they are taking a building that is linked to the Iranian community in the United States. These are not positive signs, so the Iranians are waiting to see over the next few days and weeks whether the United States is going to rethink its previously irrational approach toward Iran.

RT:You mentioned peaceful energy purposes. Will the US ever accept that?

SMM: That’s up to the United States. Iranians are not going to wait for Iranian acceptance. The Iranian position has been strengthened over the past few months, recent Iranian elections have shown Iran’s strength; the high turnout has shown there is a great deal of legitimacy in the Iranian electoral process. The reason why some of these people in prison were released was not because of any human rights work that they did, but because after the previous elections (which they deemed fraudulent), they were helping to create unrest in the country. But after this election, President Rouhani and many reformists and people from all backgrounds in the political establishment have said that there never was fraud and that basically this has strengthened Iran’s position. Right now, while the rest of the region is in uproar and there’s increasing instability thanks to the United States, Iran is the only country that is completely stable and with a high turnout in the political process in the country.

On the other hand the United States has isolated itself by threatening Syria; the international community has moved against the United States, and even within the United States Obama and the political establishment has lost popularity and support over their proposed aggression against Syria. So Iran feels that its position is much stronger today, and America’s position is much weaker.

RT:Could Iran's new efforts to improve relations with the West be seen as a sign that sanctions have actually worked?

SMM: Sanctions are working in the sense that some people have died because of a lack of medicine because Americans have basically tried to shut down the Iranian central bank, along with their allies. But that has created anger among Iranians. But at the same time, President Rouhani has said specifically that Iran is very willing to resolve questions that exist with regards to the Iranian nuclear program in the West as long as Iran’s rights are preserved. But when the United States threatens countries, invades countries and imposes sanctions on ordinary Iranians, creating a lack of medicine for cancer patients for example, then that does not help resolve the situation. The Iranians are not going to kneel to the United States. Iran is a sovereign and independent country, that’s what the revolution was about 34 years ago, for Iran to gain its independence and overcome American hegemony. It’s not a client regime like Saudi Arabia, Qatar or Jordan. So if the United States comes to respect Iran, then we can have rapprochement. The United States needs Iran, because thanks to its own policies, its destabilized the whole region, the United States has allowed Al-Qaeda to thrive through Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other oil rich dictatorships. In order to salvage the situation, it needs a strong, powerful, secure and stable country like Iran to help resolve the current mess that they’ve created in the region.