Gary Sick was earlier. Here George Friedman of Stratfor presents an argument that it may be possible for the Obama administration and Iran to reach some agreement that reduces tensions. Again I disagree, but I'll be wrong when I see an indication that the US is willing to abandon its policy that Iran must not be able to acquire legal nuclear weapons capabilities like those Japan, Brazil and many other countries have.
For structural reasons, I don't think that is possible. It would be very difficult for Iran to both have legal nuclear weapons capabilities and to be a weak enough power to fit into the US' objective for a balance of artificially weak powers in the region.
George Friedman presents a scenario where the US wants three things regarding the Persian Gulf: 1) that the US does not have to directly intervene 2) that there is no disruption to the flow of oil 3) that Iran not become more powerful.
Iran wants three things: 1) Reduction in the US presence in the Persian Gulf, 2) Recognition as a major power in the region 3) An arrangement of some sort that shifts more Gulf oil revenues to Iran.
For Friedman, the nuclear issue in itself is not important while negotiations somehow or other can resolve the US' differences with Iran over their differences.
If Friedman was right and these were the US' and Iran's primary objectives, then other than the US' third, these objectives are complementary. All the US has to do to ensure free flow of oil is stop increasing tension with Iran. The US could accommodate all three of Friedman's supposed Iranian objections without harming its own objectives if it papers over the objective of Iran not becoming more powerful.
It is not clear from Friedman why Iran not being powerful would be a first order objective for the US.
What Friedman misses is that the constraint the US' commitment to Israel puts on US policy in its region. I've talked about why the US' commitment to Israel led to the US' intervention in Iraq.
A balance of powers could have been accomplished without an invasion of Iraq. A balance of powers could be accomplished without the expensive current attempt to economically isolate Iran.In short, balance of power is easy. Balance of power where none of the balanced powers prevents Israel from being viable as an enforced Jewish political majority state is much more difficult.
A balance of very weak powers. Subject to the constraint that none of the powers is strong enough to threaten Israel is much more expensive to emplace and maintain. The US does it for emotional reasons, but will stop when the costs become too high. But the cost of maintaining that constraint is part of the cost of US support for Israel.
US policy in the Middle East is driven by oil and the strategic implications of a large amount of that resource that is concentrated in the region. But the US has accepted, for reasons that have nothing to do with pure strategy, a strategic priority in protecting Israel's status as a Jewish state that imposes heavy and costly constraints on that policy.
That difficulty alone explains why it is a US objective that Iran not be powerful.
As an aside, many Westerners have convinced themselves that the Arab world is prepared to accept Israel in the context of a two-state solution. I've talked about this before, but it is interesting to discuss the polls that supposedly support this idea. Western pollsters like to go to Arab and Muslim populations and ask: "If Israel retreats to the 1967 borders, accepts the Palestinian refugees and resolves other issues to the Palestinians' satisfaction, would you accept Israel?"
That's a complicated question, huh? Not the simpler, more relevant and more direct "Do you consider Israel a legitimate country". Readers Digest asked that question of Iranians in 2006. But I guess Western pollsters have learned their lesson. I've never seen the results of that poll question asked of a Middle Eastern population publicly released since. Populations that, unlike Iran's, are Arab and majority Sunni can be presumed to be even less likely to consider Israel legitimate.
Question 18: Level of Agreement - The state of Israel is illegitimate and should not exist
Strong disagreement: 3.9%But Israel has never offered to retreat to the 1967 borders or accept the Palestinian refugees. What the Arab populations that are being polled are being asked is an impossible and irrelevant hypothetical. When Israel's actual conditions, that Israel keep some of the territory and that the right of refugees to return be limited, are added, even the supposed majority that supports two states always disappears. But what this question does is allows Westerners to continue to feel justified in terms of their own moral systems as they support Zionism, which is the whole point. Westerners fooling other Westerners who willingly go along. I guess interesting to observe, nothing to actually take seriously.
Mild disagreement: 4.6% (Total disagree, 8.5%)
Mild agreement: 14.6%
Strong agreement: 51.9% (Total agree, 66.5%)
So anyway, Friedman seriously underestimates the deepness of the dispute between the United States and Iran. Iran cannot agree to remain a weak enough state to fit into the US weak balance of power that Israel requires to remain viable. Until the US removes that constraint on its regional policy, it will be in opposition to Iran and to any and every independent, which is to say non-colonial, state in the region.