Code: 848476 A

Professor of Security Studies at University of Akron believes "Negotiations between Iran and the US are the only way out of the current tensions and are possible."

Karl Kaltenthaler who is specializes in international security issues and the politics of the Middle East and South Asia, said to ILNA news agency in an exclusive interview that I am not sure President Rouhani holds all of the cards in Iran. His position is not nearly as strong as that of President Trump, in terms of ability to determine what his country's policy will be.


Below is his interview with ILNA news agency:

Q:Can Japan serve as a good mediator in the U.S.-Iran standoff?

A: This could help but I am not sure President Rouhani holds all of the cards in Iran.  His position is not nearly as strong as that of President Trump, in terms of ability to determine what his country's policy will be. Rouhani is constrained by other important political actors in Iran, such as the IRGC.  If the Iranian security establishment does not get behind Rouhani's position, he will not succeed. So, there is much more complexity on getting the Iranian side to arrive at a common position than there is on the US side. 


Q: The US and Iran conducted a prisoner swap. These steps could pave the way for talks between US and Iran government or not?

A: This was a positive step and likely an attempt to build some trust. It certainly helps. It will not end the impasse though. As I have said, the way out of this is that both sides can agree on something that allows them to save face.


Q: what is the best way to reduce tension?

A: The main problem for both sides is that both governments are loathing appearing that they are backing down to the other because of the immense domestic political pressure they face from their domestic political constituents. There has to be a face-saving way to begin sanctions and allow them to work.  That is a tough thing to achieve, unfortunately.

None of the governments in the region want war.  But all of the governments of the countries involved in this tension want to show their people that they are strong and will not be bullied into surrendering. This is the main obstacle to reducing tensions. It means, unfortunately, that the tensions will likely persist for some time.


Q: Will Iran and the US finally negotiate?

A: That is far from clear. It will depend a lot on cooler heads prevailing. I think it is now clear that President Trump does not want war with Iran. John Bolton was removed from his position because he was much more hawkish on Iran than Trump is. The actions of the IRGC will be important in the future of the relationship between the US and Iran. Its attempts to pressure the US and its allies could backfire and lead to a shooting conflict that both governments do not want. The key to the future is that both sides can find a way out of the tensions that does not look like one side is surrendering to the other. 


Q: Iran announces 4th step to cut nuke commitments; so do you believe this policy is works?

A: Many analysts, myself included, have interpreted Iran's actions regarding the JCPOA as a tactic to 1) Get the Europeans to pressure the Americans to stop the maximum pressure campaign and to return to the JCPOA or renegotiate and agreement along the same lines. 2) Show the US that pressuring Iran will have the opposite effect as the US intended. It will not get the Trump administration to back away from maximum pressure because the administration would not want to abandon until it can say that it has produced its intended results. Ending maximum pressure while the Iranian government appears to move toward nuclear breakout is not something the US government is likely to do.


Q: So you believe that Trump's policy of "Maximum Pressure" has any result at the end?

A: The results have been more economic problems for Iran. In terms of policy, elements of the Iranian security establishment have pushed back against American-led economic sanctions, employing asymmetric warfare tactics against some US allies in the Persian Gulf area.  In terms of whether the maximum pressure campaign has led to the desired effects from the perspective of the US administration, the answer is no. 

It would appear that Trump is continuing with the policy in the hopes of getting the Iranian government to meet and negotiate a deal. The policy is not very costly for the US to continue. The cost to the US administration of switching from maximum pressure to a policy of trying to entice Iran to change its behavior by offering rewards and positive re-engagement with Iran would look like failure, would undermine the credibility of US threats into the future, and would be politically embarrassing for President Trump, given his long-standing promise to get tough on Iran.


Irgc JCPOA Iran - US negotiations war 2015 nuclear deal Maximum pressure Karl Kaltenthaler U.S.-Iran standoff
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