Interview: Iran that resists
The American withdrawal from the JCPOA, the famous nuclear deal between the United States and Iran, which at the time was also sponsored by Russia and the European Union, opened the door to more than one possible scenario but when nations clash, their people pay the consequences. So what is the current situation in Iran? How do the Iranian people experience American decisions? Since the narrative proposed by the great Western media side with the American line, I tried to enrich the visual with some questions to Davood Abbasi, of ParsToday.
Q) Already in the aftermath of the signing of the JCPOA treaty, Barack Obama's America imposed a new series of sanctions against Iran, in fact immediately beginning to betray its part of the agreement. Why did Iran trust Americans?
A) I think Iran knew very well that the Americans would not have kept the agreement. The dark period of American rule in Iran, at the time of the last Shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavì and the actions over the last 40 years, period of life of the Islamic Republic, have taught all Iranians that the United States cannot be trusted. Therefore, I do not believe that illustrious personalities such as President Rohani or Foreign Minister Zarif really trusted the signing of the Americans. Their move was clever in the same way, because unfortunately the Western media and even part of the IAEA, the International Atomic Energy Agency, had the habit of insinuating that Iran was planning the bomb. With the agreement and the presence of the international inspectors in Iran, this accusation can no longer be addressed and even in the case of a Tehran withdrawal from this agreement, it will be possible to establish and verify that the Iranian program is solely civil.
Q) At that time there were no alternatives to the agreement?
A) There were alternatives but I believe the choice was right. The country's economy needed to take a breath, there was a need to buy some new airplanes, there was a need for at least a period of reduction in sanctions. The right spirit, however, as anticipated, was to know from the beginning that it would not last long and think from the beginning to the next. We will have to wait for the next few months to see if this has actually been done. For now, the resilience of the Iranian economy and government in the face of "the toughest sanctions in history" is truly exemplary and there are no particularly critical phenomena within Iran. People continue their activities, the economy continues for its course and I believe we can say that the country is immune to any kind of sanctions. In these days it was knew that China purchased 700,000 barrels of crude oil a day in April; India, just in the previous hours, had declared that it will resume its purchases, estimated at around 300,000 barrels a day. With this million barrels sold per day (admitted and not granted that Iran does not sell well elsewhere), the Iranian government can easily manage the economy, the internal market and carry out its functions. Actually, it could do it even with half of these sales, so I would say that the sanctions are proving an incredible fiasco for the Trump administration.
Q) So what will President Trump do? Will he opt for military attack?
A) You see, if the US had had only one chance of success in a military conflict against Iran, eager for wars as they are, they would have already attacked it a hundred times, as they did with other countries in the past. The problem is that the United States knows perfectly well that Iran is too strong; therefore they will never attack, but they use psychological warfare: with troop and military movements they want to make people believe that they have considered the option of war. I believe that right now President Donald Trump is in great difficulty on the issue of Iran and to witness his bewilderment, there are his statements to say the least contradictory. Within a week, he said earlier that the end of Iran had come and then he also said that Iran could become a great country with the government it has today and that he would like to negotiate. Trump is aware that the elections are approaching and he, in about two years, will have to be able to tell the American electorate what he did about the Iran dossier. If the electoral campaign started today, the Democrats would say that with the agreement with Iran, they had peacefully resolved the issue, they had established excellent contacts with Tehran and had made happy European and Asian allies. Trump, at this moment, would have nothing to say except to have violated the agreement, demoralizing among other things the allies of the United States, Europe in the first place, who had great economic interests in collaboration with Tehran. It is clear that the whole history of harsh sanctions, military threats and heavy rhetoric are an attempt by Trump to force Iranians to sit down at the table and renegotiate another agreement, more advantageous to the West. Unfortunately, however, the work of President Trump is so childish, primitive and amateur, that even if Iran wanted to make more concessions, now it is no longer in a position to do them. The Iranian population would never, ever accept a negotiation with a nation that has just violated the nuclear agreement. The Iranian population would never accept to sit at the negotiating table with those who turn badly to the country and with those who threaten Iran and moreover imposed harsh sanctions that go above all to hit the people.
Q) President Rohani's position, known to Westerners since the Iran-Contras affair, came out stronger after the agreement was signed. And now that Trump tore him up?
A) Needless to say, Trump's withdrawal from the agreement has embarrassed the Iranian reformists in front of the population. They had convinced the electorate to vote for them, promising to solve the differences with the rest of the world and to abolish the sanctions; they had also succeeded, but then Trump's withdrawal from the agreement and the return of the sanctions showed that their predictions were not correct. In fact, in light of this, I foresee that a conservative will win in the upcoming presidential elections and that the reformists are in a fairly weak position.
Q) Is it true that President Rohani proposed a popular referendum to decide on the continuation of the nuclear program? However, wouldn't it be a risky move and with a desperate taste?
A) President Rohani does not have the power to hold such a referendum. And then it would not make sense to make a referendum about an inalienable right of the country, also recognized by international law. The non-proliferation treaty, of which Iran is a signatory, consents to the development of nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. For the production of medicines and electricity. Ironically, Iran, with the sanctions existing, needs both. Assuming that the referendum is done, over 90% of people would vote yes for nuclear power, because they considers it as a right and something necessary for the progress of the country.
Q) What was the reaction of the Iranian armed forces to Trump's decision?
A) The armed forces are on maximum alert to be able to respond to any aggression; this is their duty. Among other things, having also played a role in the fight against ISIS in Syria and Iraq in recent years, they are very well-prepared armed forces. As an experience, they also have the 8-year war against Iraq. I believe they are the most prepared in the region and I believe they are absolutely respectable also in terms of equipment. Precisely for these reasons, the option of attacking Iran is only a propaganda gimmick. Their reaction, therefore, was to raise the level of the alert.
Q) And that of the political forces present in the parliament?
A) The political forces present in Parliament are composed of reformists and conservatives. The conservatives immediately declared that the facts show what they had always told: you can't deal with Americans, because they are not worthy of trust and they understand only the language of bad manners and not those of good ones. The reformists tried to justify their position a little but later gave up. At the moment there is a certain unity and the bipartisan goal is to approve measures that reduce the pressure of sanctions on people.
Q) How did the clergy express themselves and, in particular, the Supreme Guide, the Ayatollah Khamenei?
A) The clergy condemned the position of the United States, considering it in any case alighned with the historical role of this country and Ayatollah Khamenei reiterated that the country must invest in its indigent forces, in its internal production, in its capacities, and therefore develop even more what is called the "economy of resistance". Among other things, visits to neighboring countries by the president and foreign minister indicate that Iran is trying to weave a network of exchanges with its neighbors that sanctions cannot stop.
Q) After Trump's decision to withdraw from the treaty, have ordinary people and the Iranian youth felt defrauded of a part of their future?
A) They felt deceived by the United States. The anger was univocal because this time Iran had signed an agreement and it was US who failed in their commitments.
Q) How does the Iranian population live this moment so tense, in which any accident can trigger a terrible war with the Americans?
R) In reality there is not all this tension within the country. People have been used to threats from the US for 40 years and don't take them seriously. Life goes on carefree and happy, and this can be confirmed by the many Italian tourists who have been to Iran in the last period. Everyone talks about a welcoming, happy, smiling people. I interviewed many of them for IRIB "Italian Tourists in Iran" section and I could also make audio files available to you. In Iran nobody is worried and they also knows that in the remote case of a war, the country would be able to defend itself.
Q) There is a lot of mistrust towards Iran. Because of the more traditional aspects of Shiite Islam or its aspects of social justice, which could supplant the old political paradigms that are already very decadent?
A) I don't understand this question well. I can only say that Iran represents that part of Islam that is wise, responsible and moderate and that the West would do well to strengthen and have as an ally. The West, primarily the USA, has always chosen the alliance with sectors of Islam that are very dangerous and intransigent: Saudi Arabia is the most obvious example.