You have to hand it to the Iranians. I’m sure many people used to think Iran’s foreign policy was limited to a thin manual that instructed government officials to call George W Bush an ‘imbecile’ and label Barack Obama ‘naïve.’
But the Republic’s recent fuel-swap agreement with Turkey has proven that there is a method behind the madness.
The deal, which Turkey describes as a “confidence-building measure,” is more or less the same agreement that Iran had reached with Russia last year. At that time, Obama had termed the arrangement ‘constructive.’
So for all intents and purposes, Iran’s agreement with Turkey should also be ‘constructive,’ shouldn’t it?
Not quite. The US has said it is sceptical about the arrangement, and will continue to press for a fourth round of sanctions against Iran.
This puts the US in a prickly situation. If the administration slaps sanctions on Iran, American policy can be criticised for being inconsistent and counter-productive. The situation is further complicated when you throw Russia into the equation. Russia, which has grown increasingly frustrated with Iran over the last year, has also recently developed close economic ties with Turkey. Putin will visit Turkey in June to attend a conference on ‘confidence-building measures in Asia,’ and I’m sure he’s wondering how his support for sanctions in the face of a Turkish-sponsored landmark fuel-swap agreement will go over in Ankara.
The bottom line is that the deal has caused the sanction’s international backers to waffle. China has also termed the deal a “positive” development, suggesting that it is distancing itself from sanctions.
The US can do little more than mumble ‘your deeds better match your words’. It’s an understandable response, given Iran’s penchant for backing out of agreements at the last minute.
But for the moment, Iran has demonstrated for all how astute, strategic foreign policy decisions can turn the tables in favour of the little guy in a David versus Goliath battle.
And that’s a lesson Pakistan can certainly stand to learn from.
Published in the Express Tribune, May 25th, 2010.
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