Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. President Donald Trump have working lunch in Tokyo, Japan, May 27, 2019. [Photo/Xinhua]
U.S. President Donald Trump has an idea to end the current tension with Iran. Addressing a news conference with his host Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during a recent visit to Japan, he suggested a new deal to settle the nuclear issue.
The reconciliatory gesture comes amidst a dramatic military buildup in the strategic Persian Gulf that guards a key energy corridor linking the oil-rich Middle East with rest of the world.
The United States and Iran are locked in an adversarial relationship that reflects deep mutual mistrust. The hostility started with Iran's Islamic revolution in 1979 and periodic flare-ups have kept it warm.
Lately, U.S. alleged Iran was planning attacks on its interests in the Middle East after a rocket was fired into the Green Zone of Baghdad and a Saudi oil tanker was damaged by explosives. An attack at Saudi oil facilities by Yemeni Houthis rebels is also counted among alleged Iranian provocations.
The problem started when Trump, after taking office, announced he would not abide by the nuclear deal signed by Western nations and Iran in 2015. After initial hesitations, he pulled out last year and re-imposed tough economic sanctions on Tehran to punish it for its alleged nuclear weapons development policy.
The deal is still intact as far as Iran and rest of the signatories, including China, Russia, Britain, France, Germany, are concerned. However, Iran warned two weeks ago that it would partially suspend the deal if other parties did not provide relief on the economic front.
The U.S. is using sanctions to hurt Iran in order to force it to come back to the table and seek another deal. That is why Trump is now saying a new deal is possible.
However, that may not fully fix the problem, as Iran is a strategic issue. Moreover, it is not just a bilateral matter, but one with regional and global ramifications.
The policymakers in Washington would like to render Iran toothless so that it no longer poses any threat to U.S. key allies in the region, including Israel and Saudi Arabia and also halts any further alleged "proxy" military action in Yemen, Lebanon, Iraq and Syria.
The U.S. has ample influence over oil producing nations of the Middle East. However, Iran lies outside of any such influence and follows an independent policy when it comes to selling its products to other nations.
The nuclear issue is being used as a tactical option. It is well known that Iran does not have any nuclear weapons, nor can it develop these in the near future. All this is reminiscent of the American dubious claims regarding the former Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein's possession of "weapons of mass destruction" allegedly posing a huge threat to the regional and world peace.
So, why is Trump now talking about a new deal, when the issue is not that simple? There are reasons.
First, Iran is different from Iraq and use of force would have far-reaching consequences. Second, deep strategic matters cannot be addressed immediately. Third, undue delay to resolve the nuclear issue after a military buildup will be considered a moral victory for Iran.
Trump's policy reflects his way of dealing with international issues. It is based on consciously creating a crisis situation by applying military pressure in order to force "hostile" countries to opt for negotiations.
However, such a policy is flawed, as dialogue under coercion seldom bring desired results – the failed negotiations with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) being a case in point.
Iran is different, as several other countries want some kind of understanding to avoid conflict. It is reported that Shinzo Abe might visit Tehran in mid-June to explore the possibility of fresh understanding on the nuclear issue.
Abe, in the same news conference with Trump, said Japan would do whatever it could to address the Iran issue. He has good ties with Iranian leadership, while Japan has strong commercial interests as one of the main buyers of Iranian oil.
In its response to Trump's remarks, Iran said it was not interested in developing nuclear weapons. Foreign Minister Javad Zarif in a tweet referred to a religious edict (fatwa) by the supreme leader that nuclear weapons were against Islam. Zarif also said Iran is seeking a relaxation of sanctions.
Whatever the circumstances, Iran should not reject the offer to end crisis through talks, especially if other countries join the process. There is no harm in talking about a new deal if it can provide a face-saving way out for both the U.S. and Iran.
Sajjad Malik is a columnist with China.org.cn. For more information please visit:
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