By Zahra Khodaie 

West recognizing convergence of interests with Iran in combatting terror: Deakin University professor

September 20, 2016 - 12:54

TEHRAN - A professor of Middle East and Central Asian politics at Deakin University says there is a “convergence of interests” between Iran and the West in fighting terrorism and this is something which has been realized by the West. 

Shahram Akbarzadeh also tells the Tehran Times that Iran will succeed to “blunt the anti-Iran lobby in Washington” if it takes “a more prudent and diplomatic approach to the region”.

Following is the text the interview:

Q: Is the West willing to cooperate with Iran to combat terrorism?

A: The West recognizes that there is a convergence of interests in relation to terrorism. Takfiri groups in Iraq and Syria present a threat to both Iran and the United States. And logically the two should work together because that is in the interest of both states. However, the animosity and mistrust between the two has solidified over the past decade and acts as a barrier to cooperation.  This is not serving either state. For Iran, this is a major missed opportunity. Here is a chance for Iran to act responsibly and demonstrate with its actions that it is a force for stability and status quo in the region.

There are voices in the United States already questioning Washington’s relationship with Saudi Arabia, and even with Israel. Some U.S. commentators have openly asked why Washington does not work with Tehran to defeat Daesh. Iran needs to help these voices by its actions.

Taking a more prudent and diplomatic approach to the region will blunt the anti-Iran lobby in Washington and pacify critics. The result would serve Iran’s interest. International recognition of Iran as a responsible state in the Persian Gulf will significantly improve Iran’s standing and give it much more authority and influence. This is called soft power. Iran has the unrealized capacity to be a major regional soft power if it plays its cards right.     

Q:  Is the JCPOA in jeopardy?

A: Yes it is because without tangible results on the ground, the Iranian government will find it difficult to convince the public that this was a worthwhile deal. There is already growing opposition to the deal in Iran and the United States. The deal is on a knife’s edge and a miscalculation or misunderstanding can reverse the agreement. That’s because Iran has not managed to arrive at a comprehensive rapprochement with the United States – despite high hopes at the time of negotiations. As a result relations are still governed by suspicions and mistrust, if not open hostility. And in the absence of tangible results for Iran’s economy, which has been the primary concern for the Rouhani government, the JCPOA is at risk.  

Q:  European Banks are still wary of working with Iran, fearing a punishment by the U.S. Treasury. What are the main obstacles?

A: The U.S. Congress has taken an obstructionist position in relation to the JCPOA. It has adopted new sanctions in response to Iran ballistic tests. There is a set of other sanctions that continue to be in force. International financial institutions risk hefty fines for dealing with Iran. For them, it is not clear how their transactions with Iran may be interpreted in relation to existing and cancelled sanctions. And the U.S. has warned that it would prosecute any breach of the sanctions regime. As a result of this uncertainty, international financial institutions have opted to be cautious and wait for more clarity. They don’t wish to put themselves at risk.

Q: The Iranians are rather getting disappointed as the nuclear deal has failed to open up channels for trade and investment as it was expected, and the hardliners are using this situation as an opportunity for political gains. How do you analyze the situation?

A: This is the greatest challenge to Rouhani and his team. He had made sanctions removal and economic recovery the centerpiece of his policies. But with the limited progress on that front, he is being chastised for capitulating to the West. He is accused of giving up Iran’s greatest asset for nothing in return. And this message resonates with large segments of the population who have not benefitted from his presidency. He needs to expand his efforts in the international community to look at the Iranian market and engage with Iran. As part of this, his government needs to provide safety, stability and predictability for foreign companies to ensure that their business is safe in Iran.


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