Iran is holding its breath in anticipation to what the Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, might carry with him on his visit to Tehran on June 12 and the mediation he would offer to ease the tension between the United States and Iran. Tehran relies heavily on this mediation, which could be a huge and strategic mistake in which the Iranian decision-makers have fallen into because of their political calculations in dealing with Washington and its sanctions and mounting pressure since leaving the Nuclear Deal.
The visit comes amid increased pressure on Iran by the international community and the United States, and after the imposition of new US sanctions on the Iranian petrochemical sector – second largest economic sectors of Iran after oil – in conjunction with the delayed implementation of the European financial mechanism “INSTEX.”
This means that the purpose of this visit is not to mediate as some political circles in Iran enjoyed to call, but it is going to be a last chance for Iran to raise the white flag and accept to negotiate with the United States after the implementation of the twelve conditions announced by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, which include the need for Iran to deal with the international community as a state not a revolution; to stop the its project of exporting the Khomeini’s revolution and all its terrorist activities and subversive interventions; to withdraw all its armed militias from the region and stop supporting terrorist groups, i.e. the Houthis and Hezbollah. This is what Iran cannot abide by for several reasons. The most important of these is such a change is deeply linked to the change of the Iranian constitution itself, scrapping the Supreme Leader position, the dismantling of the Revolutionary Guards and Quds Force as well as the separation of religious institutions from the policy-making institutions in Tehran.
Although the visit is aimed at reducing tension between Tehran and Washington, and the belief of many Iranians that it should be exploited to find appropriate solutions to achieve Iran’s economic interests, it does not carry any retreat from the conditions that Iran should implement to ease the pressure and sanctions. On the other hand, this mediation may have come at the request of the Iranian side, away from the Revolutionary Guards’ and the hardline movement’s sight, during the visit of Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to Japan on May 16, since the world witnessed what the American President Donald Trump had to say in Tokyo, ten days after Zarif’s visit: “I do believe that Iran would like to talk. And if they’d like to talk, we’d like to talk also”. This indicates that Zarif had expressed his country’s willingness to retreat and surrender if it is done under the umbrella of Japanese mediation, in a bid to avoid the anger of the Iranian interior against the government and create the best conditions for the success of it.
This surrender is currently being promoted by the Iranian government, which is trying to impose it on the hardliners and the Revolutionary Guards in many ways. Such a move can be looked at as a surrender because this mediation has come from Japan, and it is well known that the Japanese foreign policy is hugely affected by the United States, which means that it has been done according to Washington’s terms. If it was indeed a real mediation, the USA would have approved the mediation from China or Russia for example, which both support Iran in its political positions and build economic and trade relations with it.
On this visit and what the mediation – surrender might carry, experts and observers believe that the United States has chosen Japan to be its mediator with Tehran very carefully and concluded that the Japanese are the best to play this role in order to convince the Iranians to surrender to Trump and his administration. Most Japanese do not look at Iran positively with more than 52% of them view it negatively, and more than 61% support US sanctions against Tehran. Moreover, the Japanese government maintains economic ties with Iran and the latter needs Japanese goods and technology, and any refuse for mediation would mean that Tehran might lose one of the most important economic outlets.
The Iranian decision makers understand that they have only two options and have one last chance. Either raising the white flag and surrender to the international and American pressure or losing the last chance with more pressure and sanctions considering continuous and increasing deterioration of the situation inside Iran to the extent of having a popular uprising. This may lead to the least expected scenario, which is that the Revolutionary Guards might commit folly that will lead to painful military strikes on the Iranian regime.
Al Mezmaah Studies & Research Centre
June 10, 2019