SHEEHAN | Iran Nuclear Deal One Year Later: Reconsidering Western Optimism | The Hill | Op-Ed | 5 July 2016
In the lead up to the first anniversary of the conclusion of negotiations that resulted in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran, Dr. Ivan Sascha Sheehan – Associate Professor of Public and International Affairs – assesses the wisdom of Western optimism in the face of a deteriorating situation in the Middle East. Writing in the congressional newspaper The Hill, Sheehan concludes that “Western support for a regime engaged in repressive and destabilizing activities in Syria and Iraq – resulting in forced migration with global security implications – is not sustainable or sensible.” #PDF
…policymakers viewed Rouhani’s election as a vindication of the 2009 protests on the Iranian street. The uprising was brutally repressed by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corp after Western powers turned a blind eye to the regime’s domestic violence and intimidation.
Rouhani’s reformist rhetoric, with its emphasis on domestic liberalization and the loosening of restrictions, stood in stark contrast with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s firebrand style. The liberal veneer was appealing and the regime successfully leveraged the appearance of moderation.
The charm offensive gave hope to Western policymakers desperate for a kinder, gentler leader in Tehran with whom to negotiate and ultimately resolve the nuclear issue.
The hope of moderation proved as false as it was naïve.
Not only was the rhetoric inconsistent with supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s repressive stances on free speech, academic freedom, minority rights, religious pluralism, gender equality, and democratic activities but Rouhani’s follow-through on promised reforms proved elusive. Though it may not matter to Western officials, the failure to enact reforms greatly impacted Iranian citizens who came to rue their initial support for the apparent moderate.
Dr. Sheehan is the Director of the graduate programs in Negotiations & Conflict Management and Global Affairs & Human Security in the College of Public Affairs at the University of Baltimore.