By Mohammad Homaeefar

U.S. foreign policy toward Iran is ‘institutionally hegemonic’, says professor

October 4, 2020 - 12:31

TEHRAN – Arshin Adib-Moghaddam, a professor in global thought and comparative philosophies, believes that the U.S. foreign policy toward Iran is “institutionally hegemonic”, and that a Biden administration would in some way continue the confrontational approach.

“I have theorized that the U.S. foreign policy towards Iran as institutionally hegemonic. There are nuances of course, and there was a real difference between Obama and George W. Bush,” he told the Tehran Times in an interview conducted on Tuesday.

“If Iranians could come together in an election that fosters unity, and that brings to the fore a candidate with diplomatic diligence and empathy for the plight of ordinary Iranians, then the likelihood of any major national security threat is already minimized,” Arshin Adib-Moghaddam told the Tehran Times.

“But Biden is no Obama,” he opined. “While he will accentuate the language of diplomacy, the policies of his administration will continue to be recurrently confrontational. I have studied this dynamic in-depth in my forthcoming book What is Iran: Domestic Politics and International Relations in Five Musical Pieces (Cambridge University Press, 2020).”

Asked how a Biden administration would affect Iran, Adib-Moghaddam said Iran needs to focus on its own presidential elections which will determine the context of Iranian-U.S. relations by far more decisively than the deliberations of the White House.

“If Iranians could come together in an election that fosters unity, and that brings to the fore a candidate with diplomatic diligence and empathy for the plight of ordinary Iranians, then the likelihood of any major national security threat is already minimized,” he said.

He also argued that some elements of the Iranian state are by far more responsible for some international crises than any other institution, citing the problems of dual-nationals and the application of death penalty in Iran as two of the greatest issues facing the country.

Tensions arose between Tehran and Washington after U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the 2015 nuclear deal, which was reached in 2015 between Iran and six major powers including the U.S.

The deal, officially called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), was reached when Barack Obama was the president of the United States.

“I am in no doubt that Biden would immediately fly to Europe, and put the JCPOA on top of the agenda,” Adib-Moghaddam said, responding to whether Biden would revive the nuclear pact.

“In Europe, he would be welcomed with great fanfare in order to reinstitute a positive image of the United States, one that is decisively tarnished by the Trump administration, certainly among a whole generation and globally,” he said.

The professor further said that the JCPOA is likely to be presented as a transatlantic initiative to bring Europe and the U.S. closer.

“I am in no doubt that Biden would immediately fly to Europe, and put the JCPOA on top of the agenda,” said the professor.

However, he continued, even a Biden presidency will take a “condescending” approach framed by occasional threats and demands for a change in Iran’s foreign policy behavior and domestic politics.

“Once the JCPOA is back on the table, it is absolutely crucial for the next Iranian president, to make any further steps towards verification entirely and uncompromisingly dependent on sanctions relief,” he said, adding, “Ordinary Iranians deserve nothing but that for their daily sufferings which are heart-breaking and unsustainable. Both the Khatami and the Rouhani administrations failed Iranians on this account.”

Professor Adib-Moghaddam was asked to comment on what would happen if Trump gets re-elected to rule the U.S. for the next four years. He said it would have the benefit that his administration would continue to be treated as a “quasi-pariah”.

Trump is probably the most hated politician in the world right now, and no self-respecting leader would want a photoshoot with him, he remarked.

“This perception seriously constraints the ability of this administration to forge a diplomatic consensus among its allies in Europe and beyond. On the negative side, the policy of threats, insults and sanctions would continue, with intermittent efforts towards provoking a military confrontation,” he noted.

On why the three European countries to the JCPOA – namely Britain, France, and Germany – have failed to protect Iran’s interests under the deal, Adib-Moghaddam said Europe doesn’t have the diplomatic backbone to translate diplomatic defiance of the United States into independent foreign policies.

“Europe doesn’t have the diplomatic backbone to translate diplomatic defiance of the United States into independent foreign policies,” Adib-Moghaddam noted.

“The JCPOA is a very good example for that,” he maintained. “Europe said no to the United States, most recently in its rebuke of the snapback travesty that has been rightly ridiculed in Brussels and London alike. But this negation of U.S. efforts to escalate the situation hasn’t translated into an alternative strategy.”

Asked whether Trump’s hatred toward Obama was a significant factor behind his withdrawal from the JCPOA, the professor said undoubtedly there is a pathological personal hatred that Trump feels towards Obama which stems from an obvious inferiority complex.

“He has also needed to contrast his type of politics quite radically from Obama’s to secure his right-wing constituency in the United States,” he said. “He can’t be a compromise candidate because he would lose the votes of those extremists.”

President Hassan Rouhani and his administrations have argued that the 2017-2018 widespread protests across Iran, which began on 28 December 2017 and lasted for two weeks, prompted Trump to exit the nuclear deal. Offering his take on the matter, Professor Adib-Moghaddam said he believes it is analytically false and politically dangerous to link events in Iran to foreign policies of other countries.

“It is a form of Gharbzadegi in reverse because it ultimately suggests that Iranians are not writing their own history. It is also a form of discrediting real grievances that must be addressed sooner or later to avert any crisis in the future,” he said.

“What is needed is a fresh start and a new way of framing Iran’s relations with the United States. The tired paradigms of the past are not only analytically wrong but amount to political self-harming,” the professor concluded.

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