Iran and the US need to tone down their rhetoric and start showing a willingness to compromise in order to resolve the nuclear crisis diplomatically, says Janet Kursawe of the German Institute for Middle East Studies.
The perfect match? Ahmadinejad and Bush
When the UN Security Council's ultimatum calling on Iran to halt its nuclear program expires on Friday, a positive outcome in the form of Iran giving in to the demands is highly unlikely. That's not very surprising, considering that chances of success were limited from the beginning. And since the ultimatum was not issued in the form of a resolution that's binding in terms of international law, sanctions are not going to follow.
Thirty days ago, at the time the ultimatum was given, the Iranian government reacted quickly by saying that it would not give in to international pressure by giving up its right to peaceful use of nuclear power. Tehran's announcement to withdraw from the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and the International Atomic Energy Agency in case of sanctions were also predictable.
What's surprising is the escalation of the last few months. Ever since Iran's sixth president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, took office, the dynamics of conflict that the US and Iran engaged in via provocative statements have made it increasingly difficult to reach a diplomatic solution.
Both sides seem to have found a perfect match: Ahmadinejad's piety and self-presentation, combined with excessive nationalism and a readiness to sacrifice, is the logical response to George W. Bush's sense of mission.
Blow n out of proportio n
The demands on Iran that are unique in the non-proliferation treaty's history are insulting and offending when one considers the country's significant sense of national pride and the fact that Iran has been a member of the treaty since 1968.
The situation has paved the way to turn the right to use nuclear power into a question of national self-determination, as happened since Ahmadinejad took over. His government and radical, conservative forces of other political organs have managed to preempt all domestic and foreign policy issues in the dispute over Iran's right to use nuclear power, limiting the power of the opposition even further as a result.
No one helps Iran's leader more in this respect than the US government. While opposition voices are increasingly calling for an end to the course of confrontation and back a compromise and even a temporary halt to uranium enrichment, their power and ability to act is extremely limited.
A deteriorating political climate and increasing human rights abuses are a consequence of Iran's growing isolation. Should the isolation continue, the conservative, radical establishment will consolidate its political power even further and lead to a militarization of domestic and foreign policies.
Mutual suspicio n s preve n t solutio n
Iran is still a long way from being able to produce nuclear weapons. Should the conflict continue, the government is certain to increase its efforts in the field of nuclear research and will use them to raise its deterrent potential. Ahmadinejad's propagandistic remarks during military exercises at the beginning of April served the same purpose.
Mutual suspicion and alternating threats between the US and Iran are currently the biggest hindrances to a diplomatic solution. Iran feels threatened because of US military presence in its immediate vicinity and because of Washington's assurances that it wants to bring about a regime change in Tehran. The fact that Israel feels threatened -- and exercises pressure on the US -- because of Ahmadinejad's anti-Semitic remarks also contributes to the dynamics of escalation.
The current insistence on refusing to compromise could lead to a decision to push the military option. Any military action -- even a limited one that only aims to destroy nuclear plants -- will have fatal security consequences for the region in the long run.
Instead, people should consider rethinking a Russian proposal that was outright rejected by the US administration. Moscow suggested that the Iranian nuclear program should continue outside the country with Russia's technological help. In order for this to happen, however, all sides would have to work towards de-escalating the situation and the US government would have to be willing to sit down and negotiate with Iran.
Janet Kursawe is an ethnologist, political scientist and psychologist. The Iran expert and studies intercultural conflicts and security policy at the German Institute for Middle East Studies.