A Professor in Global Thought and Comparative Philosophies at SOAS, University of London believes that the only way to resolve tensions in Persian Gulf is to institutionalise a culture of diplomacy - regional forums that are geared to trust-building, cultural exchanges, economic dialogue and security empathy.
Q: As a first question, how have tensions between the U.S. and Iran reached this crisis point in Persian Gulf?
A: The tensions in the Persian Gulf are nothing new. In the absence of functioning security architecture, the rivalry will be recurrent and it will continue to hurt the interests of the people of the region, especially those vulnerable strata of society affected by war and economic stagnation. The only way to resolve these tensions, as I have set out in my studies on this topic, is to institutionalise a culture of diplomacy - regional forums that are geared to trust-building, cultural exchanges, economic dialogue and security empathy. "Security empathy" refers to an understanding of the insecurity felt by the other side and to try to resolve this threat perception in the spirit of dialogue and reciprocal benefits.
Q: where is the crisis between the U.S. and Iran headed?
A: I have said repeatedly and consistently that Trump will be a disruptive President. This is because he doesn't have a strategy - he is intellectual incapable to plan long-term. His temper, lack of education, and megalomania turn into ad-hoc, emotional even hysterical, short-term decisions, that cannot be relied upon. As per historical experience, Presidents learn on the job and if they are re-elected they tend to be more diplomatic. However, I doubt that there will be a decisive change in the behavior of someone like Donald Trump. I agree that under such circumstances, Iran should not reach out to this administration.
Q: Do you believe that maximum pressure on Iran has any results?
A: The reasoning behind the maximum pressure campaign is easily deconstructed: It is meant to bring Iran to the bargaining table in a position of absolute weakness. It's a rather worn-out, unimpressive business tactic, that Trump must have learned from his times as a casino owner, the so called Trump Entertainment Resorts, that went bankrupt. How can a policy that didn't work in relation to a set of casinos all over the world work in relation to a country such as Iran. The inability to read the opponent, in this case the Islamic Republic of Iran is one of the major deficiencies in the foreign policy making of the United States. Hence, the failures in Iraq, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba, Iran etc. This is a systemic deficiency in the US, which stems from a one-dimensional political culture, and the lack of institutional knowledge about the world.
Q: How do you analyze President Macron attempts in reducing tension?
A: Via the Iran file, the European Union has finally positioned itself in a rather more independent equidistance from the United States. This is necessary and prudent in an emerging non-American world order which will be dominated by other actors in a multipolar setting in which the United States will be one power amongst many. The European Union has the history, diplomatic culture, democratic credibility and inter-cultural sensitivity to be a real partner to Iran. In addition to these strategic factors, the EU needs Iran as a partner, because the member states would want to be too dependent on hydrocarbon resources of Russia. I think the effort by President Macron important and potentially fruitful if the promises are backed up by real action. In turn they need to be reciprocated by Iran.
Q: Iran will reduce commitments again so what will be happen?
A: I thought this inevitable. Iran continues to be within the remit of the JCPOA, but the country has not reaped any benefits from it. This is unacceptable to any state. If there continues to be no real economic benefit for Iran, and if the Trump administration continues with its policy of harassment, then Iran should consider a step-by-step advancement of the civilian nuclear infrastructure beyond the JCPOA.
Q: Can Europe finally convince Trump to compromise with Iran?
A: The EU itself is engulfed in a trade dispute with the United States. In the US today we are dealing with a state that is absent from reality. This is why this administration is losing ground all over the world. They think in a bubble, that no one could burst because it is inflated with huge egos, that don't feel accountable to anyone.
Q: Trump repeatedly says he want to meet Iran president. Can Trump finally meet with his Iranian counterpart?
A: If he continues to insist, then I don't see any reason why Rouhani shouldn't meet him with within a multilateral context such as the United Nations. Indeed, I think this a splendid idea and I think it possible as Trump reacts impulsively as indicated. What I said about the unreliability of this US administration does not preclude dialogue. It is a simple statement of fact, that whatever is offered in such a dialogue cannot be relied upon. But a dialogue would have symbolic value for both sides. For President Trump it would feed his effort to be seen as a true statesman. For Iran, it could be used
Q: Does negotiating with Washington lead to a positive outcome?
A: As indicated above, Donald Trump is a non-committal decision-maker exactly because he thinks ad-hoc, rather than long-term. This is why I deem him unreliable.
Q: What do you think is the best solution for the Iranian authorities to resolve the current crisis?
A: Iran should be open for dialogue with the Trump administration if the approach is respectful and if such a dialogue would occur within a multilateral context; even someone like Trump understood that bolton is simply incompetent, exactly because he is an unrepentant ideologue. I think it a good development that he is out, and a sign that the Trump administration will be less erratic in its foreign relations. Bolton was an impediment - with him out, diplomacy is more likely.
Arshin Adib-Moghaddam is Professor in Global Thought and Comparative Philosophies at SOAS, University of London and Fellow of Hughes Hall, University of Cambridge. He educated at the Universities of Hamburg, American (Washington DC) and Cambridge, where he received his MPhil and PhD as a multiple scholarship student, Prof.