Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
July 08, 2011

Why Iran Would Reject The "Grand Bargain"

The Leverett's at their site Race For Iran have long called for a "Grand Bargain" with Iran in which the U.S. would guarantee (one wonders how believable) not to touch the Iranian form of government while Iran would give up its support for "the resistance", i.e. Hizbullah and the Palestinians.

But as the Lebanese scholar Amal Saad-Ghorayeb writes in a recent Conflicts Forum’s monograph, such a "Grand Bargain" may not be possible, unless the U.S. completely changes its stand in the Middle East. This because a "Grand Bargain" as envisioned now would necessitate for the Islamic Republic to give up the core values of its ideological foundation, anti-imperialism and justice, and thereby render it into an empty hull.

Via the Friday Lunch Club an excerpt from the recommendable paper An Examination of the Ideological, Political and Strategic Causes of Iran’s Commitment to the Palestinian Cause (page 13/14, footnotes omitted):

[T]he Islamic Republic would most likely reject not merely the content but the very logic underlying the Leverett’s ‘Grand Bargain’ proposal, were it ever to be officially adopted by the Obama administration. The Leveretts’ recommendation that policymakers make clear their intention to “not seek a change in the nature of the Iranian regime, but rather, changes in Iranian policies that Washington considers problematic,” is self-contradictory and reductive for it ignores the reality that the nature of the Iranian political system is not merely defined by its Shiíte Islamic theocracy and liturgy but is essentially shaped by its policies, particularly the ones deemed unsavory by the US. In fact, the very policies which Washington seeks to change comprise an essential part of Iran’s self-understanding as an Islamic state. Accordingly, the Leverett proposal misidentifies Iran’s national security policy with the physical security of the regime, or its mere survival as an institutional entity, rather than with the security of the regime’s identity, or being as a “particular kind of actor” -- its “ontological security”. Thus, when Washington demands policy changes of Iran while reassuring it that it would leave its Islamic form of government intact, in so doing, it is threatening Tehran’s ontological security as a particular kind of Islamic actor.
The Islamic Republic derives its religio-political identity from Khomeini’s interpretation of Islam which conceives of it as “the religion of militant individuals who are committed to truth and justice. It is the religion of those who desire freedom and independence. It is the school of those who struggle against imperialism.” This conception of Islam stands in sharp contradistinction to the apolitical “defective version” promulgated by “the servants of imperialism”, who strip Islam of its inherent “revolutionary” potential reducing it to a religion with “a few ethical principles” and “nothing to say about human life in general and the ordering of society,” thereby denying its adherents the pursuit of “freedom”.
Since the policy changes the US requires of Iran would necessitate that it abandon its struggle against imperialism and injustice, relinquish its independence and freedom as a state and end support for resistance movements defending the rights of the oppressed, compliance with these demands would effectively transform “the nature of the regime” from a genuinely Islamic one according to Khomeinist criteria, to a “defective” and hence unauthentic Islam. The nature of the regime and its policies are therefore synonymous rather than mutually exclusive categories; any fundamental change in Iranian foreign policy would render the political system un-Islamic. What is more, any fundamental changes in Iran’s foreign policy objectives, in the absence of a corresponding shift in US Middle East policy, would essentially mean that the Iranian state would have overturned its founding principles and undermined its identity and hence, itself. If Iran were to become one of America’s moderate allies in the region, the Islamic Revolution would be rendered meaningless and the Islamic Republic would defy its own raison d’étre in reverting to the pre-revolutionary identity ascribed to it by the Shah.

If this is a correct description, which I believe, the conflict between the U.S. and Iran will continue for the foreseeable future.

Posted by b on July 8, 2011 at 11:38 AM | Permalink


very interesting post

there's also a more prosaic reason for Iran not to buckle to Us pressure: colonialists are most dangerous when you weaken yourself morally, trying to seek a compromise

it's no accident that Iran, defending its right to nuclear power, has so far avoided an aggression (who would have thought so?) and also fought back a colored revolution

and let's hope Turkey isn't selling its soul bargaining with the devil

Posted by: claudio | Jul 8, 2011 12:18:04 PM | 1

"This because a "Grand Bargain" as envisioned now would necessitate for the Islamic Republic to give up the core values of its ideological foundation, anti-imperialism and justice, and thereby render it into an empty hull."

Didn't they basically give that up in 1986? The Islamic Republic survived abandoning its ideological foundation and support for revolution against repressive Arab monarchies then. Why can't it pivot again (not that I believe US government has the slightest interest in a bargain of any sort)?

Posted by: Bill | Jul 8, 2011 12:45:06 PM | 2

You mean the Iran Contra affair, Bill? But Iran got what they wanted then. This is like Lenin selling out to Germany .-))
(Germany got Lenin to Russia in the hope he would end the war, which he did, he did a bit more than just that though). Iran got what they wanted in Iraq and they got it in Afghanistan. They do not need a grand bargain. They actually might wish for US troups to stay, as as long as the US is in the region they are dependent on Iran's good will. As Iran's political system is more democratic in checks and balances than the rest of the Middle East, they aren't even threatend by US schizophrenia in supporting autocrats and popular movements at the same time. They proved it. Israel is crying murder, as the US effectively is working with Iran ...

Posted by: somebody | Jul 8, 2011 1:49:34 PM | 3

kinda hard to abandon your anti-imperialism and your quest for justice when the empire is scheming on your oil, gas and tranportation routes, attempts to overthrow your government, and relentlessly vilifies you.

you're kinda herded onto the moral high ground, arent you? ...especially when the empire's only moral imperative seems to be "might makes right".

Posted by: groundresonance | Jul 8, 2011 1:57:46 PM | 4

somebody says at 3...

"...the US effectively is working with Iran ... "

...only because the american economy wouldnt survive 10 dollar gas, and only if you can call the sanctions "working with"...

and apparently the threat of $10 gas is the only thing that's stopping israel from staging a provocation that would drag america into war with iran... seeing as how israel's existence is dependent on protection provided by the israeli american military, which is supported by the american economy, which is terminally addicted to cheap oil.

israel must grab enough high ground in the west bank to survive sea level rise before its american protection runs out of gas... so it's gonna be a tightrope act, as america tries to mollify its own population as its standard of living declines, while maintaining a military strong enough to protect israel.

justice for palestinians or anyone else is no factor, other than a public relations problem.

Posted by: groundresonance | Jul 8, 2011 2:17:01 PM | 5

it's kinda comical when you think about the israeli american empire's pious handwringing about human rights and justice... as the empire's behavior reveals its belief in might makes right.

Posted by: groundresonance | Jul 8, 2011 2:55:21 PM | 6

World Conference against Racism 2001

Mary Robinson lost the support of the United States in her office of High Commissioner, and many of the potential political aftereffects of the conference were annulled by the September 11, 2001 attacks. The attacks took place just three days after the conference ended, entirely eclipsing it in the news, and significantly affecting international relations and politics.



Posted by: groundresonance | Jul 8, 2011 3:35:49 PM | 7

Saad-Ghorayeb has the essence of the issue exactly correct. It's not about the imaginary nuke program. It's not about interference in Iraq.

The crux of the issue is Iranian identity and values, which expose Israeli brutality and threaten the legitimacy of Gulf Arab despots, America's dear friends.

Any regime espousing truth and justice is a threat to American interests abroad and must be extirpated in favor of those who practice deceit and injustice. What a wonderful foreign policy America has!

Posted by: JohnH | Jul 8, 2011 3:54:58 PM | 8

"What a wonderful foreign policy America has!"

9/11 was a necessity, wasnt it?

9/11 was the cover operation, an attempt to justify israeli american foreign policy.

Posted by: groundresonance | Jul 8, 2011 4:00:51 PM | 9

the operation started a year before 9/11, as sharon visited the al aqsa mosqe accompanied by 1000 cops... and that visit was caluculated to inspire an intifada, which it did... too bad hamas was so riddled with israeli informers that it couldnt blow up a balloon, much less a bus, without sharon knowing about it a week in advance.

millions of israelis were slaughtered by arab suicide bombers, and every attack was broadcast, 24/7, back to america...

after a year of wall-to-wall broadcasts from israel, americans were willing to believe the worst about arabs and muslims.

so the official 9/11 conspiracy theory, as it was planted by AIE guys on faux news before the udst settled, fell on fertile ground.

and the human rights conference at durban is wiped out.

Posted by: groundresonance | Jul 8, 2011 4:16:25 PM | 10

the only thing left to wonder about is why sharon is taking such a long nap.

Posted by: groundresonance | Jul 8, 2011 4:25:20 PM | 11

Any "grand bargain" would also been seen by Israel as a threat so AIPAC won't let it happen. Remember, the US is not in charge of its own foreign policy - proof: the scuttled appointment of Charles “Chas” Freeman Jr. to head the National Intelligence Council.

The US made a grand bargain with China however that required the US to sideline Taiwan and the pro-Taiwanese lobby. The Pro-Israeli lobby isn't about to let that happen.

Posted by: Cyrus | Jul 8, 2011 5:35:06 PM | 12

A very informative essay by Amal Saad Ghorayib. I would contend, however, that the US will not soon agree to any sort of grand bargain with Iran, because any bargain would involve the lifting of any and all sanctions by the UNSC AND the USA. Once that happens, foreign investment would flood Iran by the billions and within a decade, Iran's economy would be among the strongest world wide, dwarfing that of Israel and even Saudi Arabia. Along with it, Iran would have access to all the worlds technology and science. In short, Iran would become a global player, stronger by far than any regional nation, including Israel, Turkey or Saudi Arabia.

The US would not permit an Iran that strong if it can help it.

Posted by: Lysander | Jul 8, 2011 8:37:32 PM | 13

The other reason there will be no deal with Iran is that the United States needs a bogeyman, no matter how insignificant, to justify double digit increases in the massively bloated "defense" budgets and to rationalize the gutting of key social programs, like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

The Washington aristocracy seems convinced that, now that they got the American people down, they might as well finish us off.

Posted by: JohnH | Jul 8, 2011 11:09:04 PM | 14

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