(Persia Digest) - Speaking about a meeting between the Iranian and US presidents, Professor Arshin Adib-Moghaddam at SOAS, University of London, believes: "One meeting can’t undo a long history of mistrust between the states ruling both countries. There needs to be a track 2 route, cultural diplomacy and economic engagement."
After weeks of raised hopes for a meeting between the Iranian and US presidents, the Houthi attack on Saudi oil facilities has escalated tensions between the two countries. The US has placed unequivocal blame on Iran, while Iran denies all involvement.
The Supreme Leader of Iran rejected all possibility of talks with the US on all levels. Earlier, President Rouhani had said there is a chance of talks if the US lifts all sanctions on Iran. Nevertheless, US President Donald Trump said he prefers not to meet his Iranian counterpart on the sidelines of the UNGA, but nothing is impossible.
Persia Digest (PD) has conducted an interview with Arshin Adib-Moghaddam, Professor in Global Thought and Comparative Philosophies at SOAS, University of London, as follows:
Do you believe Trump and Rouhani should meet under the present circumstances to resolve the issues between Iran and the US?
Having a reasoned dialogue is the hallmark of any kind of successful diplomacy. A meeting would have symbolic value, but I doubt that there would be any short term fix to what can only be called the strategic mistrust between this US administration and the current Iranian government. The issues could be rather more effectively addressed within a multilateral setting with the inclusion of the European Union, Russia and certainly China. This context would ensure both accountability and some sort of verification of the diplomatic process in the future.
Are these the right conditions for a meeting between Rouhani and Trump? (Will the meeting take place?)
As indicated, any meeting would be plainly tactical for both sides and a measure to de-escalate the current situation. It would not have strategic value at this stage – it would not yield long term solutions as such. I think there continue to be powerful lobbies, the extremists on both sides, who are trying to escalate the situation further. Hence, a meeting is unlikely for now.
Considering the outstanding issues between the US and N Korea (despite a meeting between Trump and Kim Jong-un), will a meeting between Rouhani and Trump help resolve the issues between the two countries or will it serve as a photo op?
One meeting can’t undo a long history of mistrust between the states ruling both countries. There needs to be a track 2 route, cultural diplomacy, economic engagement, i.e. a multipronged, mutually beneficial, inter-institutional process which is beyond the ability of the current US administration. Moreover, after the breach of the JCPOA by the Trump administration and the sanctions, the government of Rouhani will find it that much more difficult to sell any deal with the US to its constituencies back home.
In your opinion, what is Trump’s biggest faux pas in his Iran policy? How can he remedy this?
His biggest deficiency is his lack of knowledge about world politics in general which is combined with a false assessment of the realities of the new world order which is increasingly non-American. Trump can not remedy this, because the current administration lacks the institutional knowledge, including the diplomatic stamina at Foggy Bottom, to pursue a viable, strategic and effective global policy. The big minds are simply not there and they can not be summoned at whim.
Despite Bolton leaving the White House and Pompeo remaining, do you think the maximum pressure policy against Iran will change significantly?
There may be a change if Trump gets a second vote, as history has shown that Presidents get socialized in office – their second tenure is rather more statesman-like as they learn on the job. This may be possible, even with this Presidency and could lead to an understanding that Iran or other target states, such as President Maduro in Venezuela for that matter, cannot be sanctioned into submission, exactly because they were built on the premise and promise of independence.
Arshin Adib-Moghaddam is Professor in Global Thought and Comparative Philosophies at SOAS, University of London and Fellow of Hughes Hall, University of Cambridge. Educated at the Universities of Hamburg, American (Washington DC) and Cambridge.
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