AIC's President Dr. Amirahmadi recently spoke with Radio Farda regarding US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's explanation of US policy towards Iran. The audio is in Persian; the English translation is below.
Translated and transcribed by: Celine Aslinia
After meeting with his counterpart in New Delhi, India, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that America’s policy towards Iran had three axes: “one was dealing with the nuclear agreement between Iran and 5 + 1 countries. The second important pillar of that policy is to deal with Iran’s other destabilizing activities.” The ‘destabilizing activities’ [Tillerson] mentioned included the manufacturing of ballistic missiles, procurement of weapons for terrorist groups, delivery of fighters to foreign countries, and intervention in Yemen, Syria, and other areas. [Tillerson continued], “And the third pillar - which does not get talked about much - is a support for moderate voices inside of Iran. We know there are strong feelings and values inside of Iran that we want to promote in terms of one day the Iranian people being able to retake control of their government.”
Hooshang Amirahmadi, professor and general manager of the Center for Study of the Middle East at Rutgers University, interprets Tillerson’s speech as thus: “The basic premises of Mr. Tillerson’s speech are to bring about the change of the regime through pressure on the Revolutionary Guard and hardliners through sanctions; and help to internal forces that are, from America’s perspective, moderate. It seems these ‘moderate forces’ are not from within the regime, but probably from some force assembled by the people. However, I do not really know of what he [Mr. Tillerson] speaks, because a mechanism like this created by the people does not exist. The Iranian population is rather amorphous and large and lacks a mechanism like this.”
In his talks, Mr. Tillerson repeatedly emphasized that America’s goal is not to hurt and exert pressure upon the people of Iran, but rather to combat the oppressive regime of Iran. As such, the sanctions are intended for the regime and particularly the Revolutionary Guard, and will supposedly take effect for them (but not the general populace). The Secretary of State went on to say that America does not intend to intervene in what it deems as legitimate dealings between Iran and other countries, nor dissolve existing deals between Iran and American allies that benefit US allies. He emphasized that in this respect there is no contradiction nor opposition in the US policy towards Iran. However, at the same time, America invites some allies to participate in implementing sanctions against Iran, and particularly against the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.
Hooshang Amirahmadi, researcher of the relationship between America and Iran, believes that this inconsistency in American policy does, in fact, exist: “Although Tillerson said that there is no contradiction with this policy, this policy is 100% contradictory because America cannot win in this arena if it wishes to ‘go it alone.’ At some point America must pressure its economic and commercial allies to be synchronized with it. Mr. Tillerson made a very interesting point, albeit accidentally: he specifically referred to existing contracts in Iran, as opposed to the individuals responsible for the contracts, who could in theory work with Iran in the future as well. This means even those existing contracts are affected [by the uncertainty of their longevity], which is not good news for the economy of Iran.”
Rex Tillerson repeatedly emphasized that the sanctions will take effect for the Revolutionary Guard and their subordinates. Hooshang Amirahmadi states that Iran’s ballistic missile program, which is controlled and extended by the Revolutionary Guard, resembles a ticking time bomb for the Iranian regime. “Pressure on the Revolutionary Guard is becoming predominant, and the missiles have become a ticking time bomb. The Guard is in the middle of the ballistic missile program and issues in regional relations; and so, as you put pressure on the missiles, and on the situation in the Middle East, you are exerting pressure upon the Revolutionary Guard. The main goal of this policy is to put more pressure on the Revolutionary Guard, and ballistic missiles are being used as a pretense to do so.”
In this same press conference in New Delhi, reporters asked Mr. Tillerson about the several hundred-million dollar investment of India into the Chabahar port of Iran, a contract signed in 2016 between Iran and India. The Secretary of State responded to this inquiry by stating that he sees no contradiction between the American sanctions on Iran and the deal between Iran and India.