Mustafa Fahs

Iran's Regime and the West’s Stern Messages

The protest movement in Iran that broke out 13 weeks ago has forced the world to change how it deals with the Iranian regime in domestic and international matters. It seems that many of the concerned Western states have decided to abandon the flexibility with which they dealt with the Iranian regime for decades. They are reassessing their approach to Iran’s nuclear program and other activities. This is first and foremost due to the fact that regime drones have come to threaten European collective security. Secondly, Western leaders cannot meet the developments in the country with deaf ears, pretending not to hear the young men and women of Iran cry out for freedom and social justice in the streets. Indeed, their slogans have garnered the support of opinion-makers from across the globe, who have expressed solidarity and turned the developments in Iran into part of the national political debate in their countries. This makes it impossible for Western leaders, especially those in Washington and major European capitals, to ignore them.

A clip taken on the fourth of November, the eve of the Midterms, could almost be considered evidence that developments in Iran have become a matter of domestic public opinion in the US. In it, US President Joe Biden admits that the nuclear deal is dead to his Democratic supporters.

US affirmation of the fact that the deal is dead does not necessarily mean that it has totally abandoned the idea of finding a diplomatic solution, nor does it mean that the West only has military options left on the table. Indeed, US President Biden has himself stressed that his country would not officially declare the deal with Iran dead, which indicates that doors could still be open to Iran. Nonetheless, the terms would be different this time around. These new terms begin with the regime’s drones and do not end with the human rights abuses that the regime has perpetrated against its own people or its foreign interventions.

The crux of what Biden has said is that the regime would not benefit from the privileges of the nuclear deal politically or economically, giving us the impression that the White House does not believe that concluding a deal with this regime is possible. This is the sternest message the US has ever sent Iran. After decades of tension between the two countries, we could see Washington take genuinely effective measures aimed at supporting the protesters, and it could add new terms at the negotiating table in Vienna. This means we could see the situation escalate in Iran and the region, going in a direction we have not seen before. It is no longer possible for the regime to turn the page on these protests or quell them, and the international community cannot foretell how the regime will react to this.

So far, the regime has not grasped the escalation signals sent by the West related to its international behavior in Ukraine and its domestic abuses against the protesters. It is as though the country’s foreign minister, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, is totally in denial regarding the developments in his country and the changes to the Western approach to dealing with them. Abdollahian espoused the kind of obnoxious rhetoric we have become accustomed to hearing from this regime. He tried to show that Iran would not abandon its terms, saying that a nuclear deal is possible if the major powers abide by Iran’s “red lines.” This position has angered High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell. In fact, Bloomberg has reported that Borrell had scolded Iran for its involvement in Ukraine and its abuses against the protests, stressing that the nuclear deal would only be restored if the terms of the global powers were respected.

And, from Josep Borrell to Robert Malley, Tehran’s supposed friend in the White House, to others, have been met with deaf ears by the regime, which has ignored these top officials’ warnings regarding its role in Ukraine and its clampdown at home. Its behavior on these two fronts has pushed Robert Malley to abandon diplomacy and his keenness on keeping diplomatic channels open. He has even said that the leaders of Iran have imprisoned themselves in a closed country because they repressed the popular insurgency, in addition to their support for Russia, suggesting these could be unforgivable sins.