The impetus of the diplomatic efforts to preserve the nuclear deal with Iran was praised by the German Chancellor Angela Merkel. And interestingly, her Minister of Foreign Affairs, Heiko Maas, gave credit to Europe for keeping the deal alive, despite having refrained, during the Trump administration, from fulfilling its obligations as a contracting party within the UN Security Council P5+1. Whatever the case, it is clear that Washington – under the new Biden administration – and the international community are attempting to reactivate the deal and reopen the rest of the pending files with Tehran for further negotiations later.
The Arabs, however, will not take part in the negotiations this time either. French President Emmanuel Macron’s proposal to include Saudi Arabia and Israel into the P5+1 was dropped. The Trump administration had promised to consult its allies across the world and the region about its next steps, but did not promise to involve them in the negotiations or let them take part therein. This practice has become all too common. Too often explosive Arab issues are addressed by foreign nations without saving a single seat at the negotiating table for the Arab countries.
What will our “powerful” Arab countries, if any, lose if they initiate a dialogue with Iran to draw up plans for agreement therewith and separation therefrom?
Here, we open parentheses to ask a few questions: Why do the Arabs not take the initiative to deal with their own issues themselves, and why do they insist on all this subordination and subjugation, and “hiding” behind regional and international capitals? What will our “powerful” Arab countries, if any, lose if they initiate a dialogue with Iran to draw up plans for agreement therewith and separation therefrom? And why will we have to seek a dialogue with Iran after Tehran becomes certain (or almost certain) that it will return to the international community, its banking system, and its global market?
Wouldn’t the Arabs have been able to obtain many “rights /concessions” from Tehran, had they not been led by Trump-Netanyahu’s hostile cries against Iran, and their attempts to militarize the region against neighboring countries, dividing them with irrevocable decisions regardless of history and geography—even if Iran were an intrusive state seeking to “destabilize the security and stability of the region”? We would not have had any need for dialogue and negotiations with Iran if it were a “normal country” that would simply mind its own business—negotiations are mostly required when dealing with “enemies” and “adversaries.”
Yet, it is not too late; although the relevant Arab countries could have been able to obtain a better “deal” with Iran, when the latter was under the “maximum pressure” sanctions. Today, while possible, striking a deal on favorable terms seems more difficult, as Iran approaches the moment of relief and detente. But unfortunately, it does not seem that those who refrained from taking control over the decision-making and taking initiative before, will seek to do so now. I also do not think that the visible future carries any initiatives of this kind.
The relevant Arab countries could have been able to obtain a better “deal” with Iran, when the latter was under the “maximum pressure” sanctions.
Iran will come out stronger and more confident after the difficult and arduous rounds of negotiations with which it will engage, whether within the framework of its nuclear program, or upon discussing some regional files. It is no coincidence that UN Envoy Martin Griffiths, who was banned from visiting Tehran, has rushed out to visit it recently, after Biden settled into the White House, and while the Houthi hordes are approaching the “Ma’rib Dam” and their drones are striking outside Yemen’s borders.
There is no political solution to the Yemeni crisis, nor the Syrian, Iraqi, and Lebanese crises, without Tehran—a fact that must be well recognized, whether we love Iran or hate it. And let us not go far in the search for the reasons behind Iran’s success in penetrating the Arab complexities, as the Arabs, with their regional system, sub-systems, and countries, have failed to be the “decision makers” in any of the Arab region’s crises.
Let us not wait to see what the Biden administration will do with Iran. Let us, as Arabs, pave the way for difficult and arduous negotiations with Iran, arrange our cards together, and explore with Tehran and Turkey the opportunity to establish a regional system for security and cooperation. It is enough that these two regional neighbors now have a more prominent role than us Arabs, in most of our crises, if not all of them.
*Op-ed translated from Arabic. Original title: “Iran, the Shadows of the Biden Administration, and Us”