The Iran gambit - NEDRET ERSANEL

The Iran gambit

The telephone call on Feb. 21 between President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani must have been considered routine by the media, as it received next to no attention.

Yet, the”format,” which would allow discussion of regional subjects, primarily Syria, was already established between the two countries; the 15th meeting of the Astana Process was held in Sochi, Russia, with the participation of Turkish, Russian and Iranian delegations.

We can reveal the secret behind the meeting between the two neighbors in the following words from the press conference: “President Erdoğan stated that Turkey hopes the new U.S. administration will backtrack on its unilateral sanctions against Iran, and remove the unjust obstacles standing in the way of Iranian public's welfare…”

In addition to this statement being in line with Turkey's principled stance, it emerged as a result of ascertaining that tensions between the U.S. and Iran –which will soon be referred to as “relations” – have reached a different stage.

According to Ankara, “the developments/statements in relation to the subject in the last few days is giving rise to “a new conjuncture.’”

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In the current situation at hand, both the U.S. and Iran are slowly but steadily returning to the negotiation table. The devil-may-care attitude exhibited by both sides in the form of harsh outbursts is simply to prevent the perception among their own population, the world, and in the eyes of the other that they are not weak or are acting under pressure.

The rapprochement between Washington and Tehran is important. Any close relations to develop within the framework of the nuclear deal will impact politics and the security order in the Middle East, the Caucasus and West Asia over the months to come. These waves will also hit Turkey, the main player on this map.

It will have rapid effect on Gulf countries, including Israel, the Pakistan-Afghanistan-India line, passing the Caspian and Turkic Republics through a straight line from Turkey, and also on China, between Tehran and Georgia, and finally on the line spanning Iraq-Syria-East Mediterranean.

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It is difficult to grasp the importance of this rapport without seeing the road ahead. The U.S. and three European countries (Germany, France, the U.K.) that are parties to the 2015 Iran Nuclear Deal, have already started to take steps to ensure that the deal is successful this time round with the Biden administration. And the U.S. finally declared it is ready to return to the negotiation table.

This is its opening move.

The matter needs to be viewed through a critical lens: The Iran deal will be supported by a real agreement between the U.S., Russia and China!

As the new Washington administration identifies Moscow and Beijing as primary threats to the world and especially the West, and further considers Tehran as an ally to these capitals, it might be difficult to comprehend this at first glance.

The European Union, P5+1 countries - the U.K., China, France, Germany, Russia and the U.S. - have agreed to gather for a “non-official diplomatic meeting” with Iran. The rest of the parties, besides the U.S., were ready anyway. This is what they wanted even during Donald Trump’s term.

The real problem was the U.S. and the other two superpowers, and they held their meeting! This is why the U.S. president is broaching the Iran file now at the G7 summit and the Munich Security Conference. This was one agenda of the eagerly anticipated meeting between U.S. President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

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Let take a look behind the scenes.

U.S. Special Envoy to Iran Rob Malley first held meetings with the U.K., France and Germany. This was followed by meetings with Qatar and Iran. Then, China was contacted. On Feb. 10, the envoy met directly with the Chinese foreign minister. We can say here that the Iran issue was laid on the table.

Later, Russia was contacted. The name the U.S. mentioned here is interesting. Climate change is one of the main topics that the Biden government will draw attention to. The Paris Climate Deal was one of the first he signed the day he took his place in the Oval Office. Biden’s “Climate Special Representative” is John Kerry, whom we all know – the U.S. secretary of state during the Barack Obama period. John Kerry met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Feb. 13; three days after he met with China.

Lavrov presented this meeting to the media with the title, “We are pleased about the U.S. return to the Paris Climate Deal.” All good, but Kerry is also the architect of the “Iran Nuclear Deal” that has survived to today! Also, his relations with Lavrov date back to the mid 1990s.

This is how business is taken care of.

A rough reconciliation was thus ensured between the U.S., Russia and China.

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Tehran is monitoring all this carefully. It does not only consider all developments in its own favor; it finds them useful. There are many dilemmas: sanctions, the presidential elections in June, the developments in the Caucasus, competition with Gulf countries, its “love affair” with Israel, its diminishing presence in Iraq and Syria, and U.S. determination in this regard, NATO reaching its border through Baghdad, its fine-tuned relations with Russia and arms and energy deals, the $400-billion economy deal with China which is yet to be settled, internal fluctuations, etc…

After all these developments, to say that there are no meetings being held between the U.S. and Iran behind closed doors, would be to live in another world.

This is not the only matter. Iran has U.S. citizens to bargain with. Relations are ongoing through another side door to ensure their release. However, one solid proof of evidence toward progress concerning the nuclear deal is the new “consensus” deal signed Sunday between the International Atomic Energy Agency and Iran! Parliament’s rejection of this deal included!

One way or another, the U.S. and Iran are going to take a step towards a detente. The degree of this compromise is unknown, but it seems that sanctions will be included as well.

Iran’s rapprochement with the West has always been like contact with a third species. It generally spoils the region’s direction perception.

Turkey sees it...

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