On 24 November 2014 the negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 (US, UK, France, Russia, China + Germany) around Iran’s nuclear activities ended in an extension of the interim agreement proposed in 2013. It was hoped by many a permanent agreement could be reached, resulting in the lifting of the sanctions inflicted upon Iran by the US and the reintegration of Iran into global trade and relations. However, even if an agreement can be found at the end of the extended interim agreement, it is unlikely to normalise relations between Iran and the West.
Contrary to what the media commonly reports, the US’ dispute with Iran does not stem from Iran’s nuclear activities. Rather it stems from the fact that Iran has never accepted a subdued position under US dominance, starting with the 1979 revolution. This reason cannot be publicly stated in case US imperialism is identified for what it is, so the US has disguised the reason under various excuses, including:
“…issues such as Iran not accepting a ceasefire offered to it by Saddam Hussein in the 1980s Iran-Iraq war, Iran’s support for “terrorist” groups opposed to Israel and pursuit of weapons of mass destruction in general, Iran destabilizing Afghanistan, harboring Al-Qaeda, lacking democracy, being ruled by unelected individuals, violating human rights, not protecting the rights of women, and Iran not being forward-looking and modern.”1
The Iranian government has long understood this, with President Ahmadinejad summarising it in 2006 as:
“The West opposes the nature of the Islamic rule. If this issue [the nuclear standoff] is resolved, then they will bring up human rights. If we solve that, they will bring up animal rights.”
After the completion of the First Gulf War in 1991, the US increased attention on Iran. There was a convergence of interest between US imperialist policy and Israel’s goals, realised through the Zionist supporters in US government and Israeli lobby groups.
“With the help of its lobby groups, Israel pushed through the US Congress one set of sanctions after another, hoping that ultimately the US would attack Iran, as it had done in the case of Iraq.”2
Finally in 2002 the Mujahideen-e Khalq, an exiled political group dedicated to overthrowing the Iranian government, collaborated with Israel to make certain allegations against Iran related to Iran’s nuclear activities. Since then Iran’s nuclear activities have been the primary point of conflict between the US and Iran, and a constant casus belli for US imperialism.
That the US is not interested in real rapprochement with Iran can be illustrated by the 2009/10 nuclear swap deal. Iran had requested nuclear fuel for medical use, so the US government suggested Iran swap its existing stockpile of 3% enriched uranium for medical isotopes (nuclear fuel enriched to 20%). This would negate Iran’s need to continue enriching uranium past 3%, which is necessary to produce medical isotopes but also a necessary step toward producing a nuclear weapon. Iran was open to a swap but was distrustful of the West, and wanted to ensure it would receive the new fuel. The US sent Brazil and Turkey a letter saying that it hoped Iran would accept the swap, which would pave the way for normalised relations. But the US suspected Iran would reject the deal, which would subsequently increase pressure on Brazil and Turkey to support further sanctions. Hoping for a diplomatic breakthrough, the leaders of Brazil and Turkey negotiated a deal with Iran which ensured Iran would receive new fuel and still met the conditions of the US. Caught off guard by the success of the deal, the US did an about face and promptly rejected the deal, showing that ultimately it had no interest in reaching an agreement.
Given the history of US imperialism, it is unlikely a solution to the nuclear issue will bring Iran and the US closer together for longer than needed for temporary cooperation toward shared goals in the Middle East.