Thursday,14 December, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1354, (27 July - 2 August 2017)
Thursday,14 December, 2017
Issue 1354, (27 July - 2 August 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Iranian hopes of normalisation

Iranians are waiting to find out whether US President Donald Trump will sign an executive order recognising Iran’s commitments under the country’s nuclear deal, writes Camelia Entekhabifard

 

Iranian hopes  of normalisation
Iranian hopes of normalisation

The recent verbal war between Iran and the US has worried people in the region, but perhaps not more than ordinary Iranians who are always hoping that relations will normalise and would like not to worry any longer over the future of the nuclear deal.

For a nation like Iran that has one of the youngest, best-educated and sophisticated in the region, the feeling is that the current regime does not represent them, but no one wishes to see regime change through force or confrontation or as a result of foreign interference.

Iranians understand the consequences of overnight change like the Islamic Revolution in 1979 and the disturbances they experienced during the eight-year war with Iraq in the 1980s. Iran is still recovering almost 40 years after the revolution, and people used to the turbulence see how it became a destroyer.

Iranians now are holding their breath to find out if US President Donald Trump will sign an executive order to suspend the sanctions related to the country’s nuclear programme. The nuclear deal changed the way world dealt with Iran and benefited the nation, but it did not change relations with the US. A change in Iran’s behaviour lies at the core of US demands of Iran, and it has done so since the nuclear accord was signed on 14 July 2015.

One Western diplomat at the United Nations said that “dealing with President Hassan Rouhani’s administration is easy, but knowing that access is limited makes the work uncertain.” A recent visit of Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohamed Javad Zarif to New York last week also saw the Iranians trying hard to convince the Americans of the deal’s importance for both sides.

Iranian diplomats have been receiving visas to come to the US because of the United Nations headquarters in New York, and anyone granted a visa can then also move around the country. Zarif held talks at the US Council on Foreign Relations while he was in the US and even appeared on the news channels CNN, NPR and CNBC to defend his government’s policies and criticise the US administration’s behaviour towards Iran.

However, no American politician is free to travel to Iran, let alone seek out publicity opportunities with local media as Zarif has done in order to address the American public. Americans are not welcome in Iran where Iranian-Americans can be subjected to mistreatment and imprisonment when the government feels there is a need to put pressure on the US administration.

Mainly accused of plotting against national security and spying for the US, such persecuted dual nationals have to wait for a prisoner swap or a pardon from Iran’s supreme leader before they can be freed. With no access to a lawyer or a fair trial, most of them are forced to accept the charges against them and confess to crimes they perhaps never committed.

Iran claims that the US has several Iranians in prison on unjust charges, though it is thought that several of them have broken the law by avoiding US treasury sanctions or being associated with money laundering.

One Iranian-American found himself at the centre of a bizarre plot to assassinate Saudi ambassador to the United States Adel Al-Jubeir (now Saudi foreign minister) and was sentenced in May 2013 by a Manhattan federal court to 25 years in prison.

Prosecutors said the man, named Mansour Arbabsiar, had been recruited by a cousin who was a senior official in the Iranian Al-Quds Force, part of the Revolutionary Guards, which in 2007 the US treasury department designated as supporting terrorism.

The other case known to the media is that of a former consultant to Iran’s mission to the United Nations. The US media reported allegations against a man, Ahmad Sheikhzadeh, accused of money laundering and tax fraud by receiving cash from the Iran mission and not paying taxes on this income. It has now been learned that he also recruited a United States-based atomic scientist to meet with Iranian officials in New York about Iran’s nuclear programme.

The filing regarding Sheikhzadeh does not contain criminal charges on the latter count, but was made to support prosecutors’ requests for a tough prison sentence on tax fraud charges and conspiring to violate sanctions against Iran.

According to a person who knows his family, Sheikhzadeh is not willing to leave the US for Iran despite the charges he faces.

When the nuclear deal was signed, some Iranian-Americans were released from prison in Iran in an exchange with Iranian-Americans in prison in the US. However, none of the Iranians in the US who were pardoned returned to Iran. All remained in the US, but the Iranian-Americans released in Iran flew to Geneva a few hours before the deal was signed to make sure of their safe return.

US President Donald Trump has warned Iran over the cases of Americans imprisoned in Iran, saying they should be released immediately in order to avoid serious consequences. Some see this warning as an attempt by Trump to find a way to remind politicians in Tehran of their obligations and put an end to the hostage-taking.

Will this warning work? We will find out in the 90 days before 17 October when Trump is supposed to sign the executive order approving Iran’s commitments to the nuclear deal and to the soul of the accord.

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