Ex-Diplomat Analyzes Trump’s Options on Iran

Obama’s engagement policy which led to the conclusion of the nuclear deal proved negotiations really matter and diplomacy works
Hossein MousavianHossein Mousavian

A former diplomat and nuclear negotiator outlined three options US president-elect, Donald Trump, may exercise in his policy on Iran.

When campaigning for the White House, Trump attacked the 2015 nuclear agreement that the outgoing administration of US President Barack Obama and five other powers negotiated with Iran, calling it "a disaster" and "the worst deal ever negotiated".

It has been in force since January to roll back Tehran's nuclear program in return for giving it relief from international sanctions.

Although there is uncertainty over what policy Trump will pursue on Iran after he is sworn into office next month, his Cabinet choices so far point to a hard line.

"I can say there could be three different scenarios for Trump and his administration to go ahead on Iran," Hossein Mousavian said in a recent speech at Brown University.

"The first scenario could be a regime change policy. Actually from 1953 to 2013, I believe, it has been the US strategy and therefore there is 60 years of experience of the US regime change policy in Iran and many of you may have heard 1953 when the US and the UK orchestrated a coup that removed democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddeq in Iran and installed a dictator Shah."

He said the popular 1979 revolution was a reaction to both the dictatorship and foreign intervention, calling them "the root causes of the Iranian revolution".

"If Trump is going to go for the same strategy Iran-US relations have experienced since 1979 or you want to go back from 1953 to 2013, I believe he has the right Cabinet members," he said.

The second choice facing Trump is a policy of "engagement", which Mousavian said was what led the nuclear negotiations to success in less than two years.

  Engagement's Payoff

"For the first time, because of the engagement policy we had real, direct negotiations between Iran and the US in September 2013 and the issue was nuclear," he said.

September 2013 also marks the date when Iranian President Hassan Rouhani came to office.

"You might say Obama had the same engagement policy in 2008 when he was elected. I would say he did not have the right team … In 2013, we had a new president and also [Secretary of State] John Kerry was different from Hillary Clinton and also high-level decision-makers at … the White House were also different," the ex-diplomat said.

"If you started from September 2013 and if you could reach the deal within 18 months, the final deal, it means negotiations really matter and diplomacy works."

Trump could also go for what Mousavian described as a "breakthrough" policy to help establish "truly friendly" relations between the two arch-foes, although he admitted it sounds rather idealistic.

"The third scenario, which some friends in this room might think of and which is really idealistic and is not going to happen at all on Trump's watch, could be a real breakthrough in Iran-US relations," Mousavian said.

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