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Singapore Summit Triggers a Range of Iranian Hopes and Despair

The Wire
By Professor  

As the world is watching US President Donald Trump making an effort to strike an agreement with North Korea, the US is closing the doors on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) signed by the P5+1 in 2015.

Yet, we should not forget that Trump’s real intention to invite Kim Jong Un to the table and negotiate a deal with him is not only an invitation for proliferation, but also a suggestion to Kim to think about the future of North Korea in terms of real estate perspective, including the potential to be the North Korean business partner. As the Singapore summit ended with a successful photo session between Trump and Kim Jong Un, most observers of international affairs have started thinking in terms of a diplomatic solution to the Iran issue.

In contrast to the Singapore summit document, where there is no mention of the American promise to uplift the North Korean economy, the JCPOA was formulated around sanctions relief in Iran and an engagement to improve the Iranian economy and create jobs through trade and foreign investment.

But the more important lesson of the Singapore summit for the Iran deal is that unlike with North Korea, Israel, Saudi Arabia and UAE are not interested in a diplomatic solution to the Iran affair. Moreover, the main difference between the US-North Korea and US-Iran confrontations is that US allies in the Middle East oppose any negotiations with Iran because they want and end to the Iranian hegemony and a shift in balance of power in the region in their favour.

This attitude may also explain Israel and Saudi Arabia’s support for a military adventure in Iran which would end up with instability in Iran or the political dismemberment of the country. An unstable Iran would be far from being an ideological rival to both Saudi Arabia and Israel.

Therefore, unlike with North Korea, which despite its totalitarian essence, appears in the eyes of the American president and his allies as a potential candidate for joining the East Asian market in the long run, a prolonged state of civil war in Iran would be the best scenario for the future of the Middle East.

The Singapore summit was a slap in the face for those diplomats and politicians trying hard to save the Iran nuclear deal. One would have to assume that the situation is significantly worse now that the US is deploying its sanctions against Iranian interests.

American sanctions are even finding their way to the 2018 FIFA World Cup taking place in Russia. Only a few days ago, sportswear giant Nike declared that it had stopped supplying Iran’s football team with boots. According to the ESPN report, “Iran’s players had responded to the decision by asking non-Iranian players on their club teams to loan them boots, while others had bought their own from stores.”

This is another sign of despair among the young Iranians, whose admiration for the US has deeply diminished over the past few weeks.

It is a fact, the Iran deal of 2015 had rebuilt a new confidence among the Iranian youth about the future of diplomatic relations between Iran and the world that had been damaged in the past decades. Many were particular hopeful about the power of diplomacy in today’s world affairs, especially after listening to the comments of the American secretary of state John Kerry in the closing minutes of the Iran nuclear negotiations in Vienna, where he recalled his time in the Vietnam War as a young man.

“I went to war and it became clear to me that I never wanted to go to war again,” Kerry told his fellow diplomats. “That’s what this was all about. Trying to settle these matters through diplomacy and peaceful means. I learned in war the price that is paid when diplomacy fails. And I made a decision that if I ever was lucky enough to be in a position to make a difference, I would try to do so. I think that’s what diplomacy was put in place to achieve, and I know that war is the failure of diplomacy and the failure of leaders to make alternative decisions.”

What do the young Iranians think about the Trump-Kim summit in Singapore? Logically, for a start, they see it as another historical moment that opens the doors of optimism to the young North Koreans.

Secondly, they see another member of ‘the Axis of Evil’ being “humanised” and invited to join the concert of the nations. However, the Singapore Summit has also a bitter meaning to young Iranians, it simply means that they have to make their baggage and leave Iran for a new brain drain. This is a great victory for Donald Trump, who, by bringing Iran to a state of economic poverty and political militarisation, is inviting a great number of Iranians with university education and awards in international scientific Olympiads to join North American research centres. At least, North Korean and Iranian youth are similar in one thing: they both hope that their countries will not go through a devastating conflict.

Ramin Jahanbegloo is the director of the Mahatma Gandhi Centre for Peace at Jindal Global University.