From the US government's perspective, the rules of the nation-state systems and existing international norms suggest that if the US does a favor for a country (in this case, the Islamic Republic), Tehran will absolutely reciprocate. But unfortunately what many so-called Iran policy makers, in the West, do not comprehend is that Iran's domestic and foreign policies are not shaped the same way that those of other modern nation-states' are informed.
Iran's domestic and foreign policies are shaped by the interactions and contradictions among three concentric circles of forces, rather than solely by national interests. (I will not delve into these three pillars in this article)
Currently, the ruling clerics of Iran are empowered and emboldened to an unprecedented level, where they are launching ballistic missiles, in the midst of the day, for the world to see. I can not imagine that these open, belligerent and provocative actions would have ever happened if the Islamic Republic was still under UNSC sanctions, or if the White House was not following the carrot-but-no-stick policies.
The Islamic Republic is publicly acknowledging their IRGC role in helping the Syrian dictator, and publicly galvanizing the Shiite proxies, and giving birth to more Shiite militias, to fuel the sectarian conflict. Americans thought that the US relief of sanctions against the Islamic Republic and the appeasement policies, would definitely generate a favorable reaction from Iranian leaders towards the US. But again, Western politicians appear to be naive in comparison to their Iranian counterparts.
Iran's Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, who previously gave his blessing to Rouhani's nuclear team and congratulated them for reaching a nuclear deal with the P5+1, is now turning the trend around after he has achieved his objectives, after IRGC and Khamenei has received billions of dollars, after Iran's ruling politicians witnessed Obama's weakness, and after Khamenei became confident that UNSC sanctions can not be snapped back anymore thanks to Russia and China's veto power in the UN Security Council.
In fact, Khamenei appears to be preparing the field to pull out of the nuclear deal, which is President Obama's utmost nightmare. President Obama has shown that he will do anything to maintain the nuclear deal- his foreign policy legacy and "accomplishment"- intact.
In Iran's politics, Obama's concessions and appeasement attitude mean weakness. The more you give the ruling clerics, the more they want and the more they are empowered to pursue their regional hegemonic ambitions. These are basic rules. Elementary reading of Middle Eastern history would tell Iran's policy makers about these basic rules of how politics works in Middle East.
Khamenei: "when I say the enemy, I mean the US government"- Khamenei's Shrewd Tactics
In his hometown of Mashahad, where Khamenei recently gave his yearly speech, he heavily criticized President Rouhani, Iran's foreign foreign minister, Javad Zarif, and he explained that how the United States remains the preeminent enemy of the Islamic Republic.
In addition, Khamenei also warned the Iranian youths not to be trapped by President Obama and the White House's last week message to the Iranians. Mockingly, he argued that Obama's latest message and the White House creation of a haft-sin sofreh [the traditional Nowruz food] were methods to deceive the Iranian youth.
Khamenei has several tactics with his recent lashing out at Rouhani's and Iran's foreign minister, Javad Zarif and the United States.
The fact is that if it was not for Khamenei's blessing, Rouhani would have not been capable of continuing with the negotiations and reaching the nuclear deal. Even before Rouhani came to power, Khamenei and senior cadre of IRGC were preparing the platform for a nuclear deal. But they are emboldened now, are in a stronger position vis a vis the US after sanctions were lifted, and they do not need the deal anymore after achieving their objectives.
In addition, in order to preserve his power, Khamenei has always attempted to play the game of the moderates versus hardliners for the Western viewers. While in public he shows his support for the hardliners, in private he gives the green light to the moderates.
In Mashhad, where a significant amount of the hardline clerics reside, Khamenei sends his real message that he continues to respect the Islamic Republic's ideological principles of opposing the United States and preventing rapprochement between Tehran and the "Great Satan".
In addition, not only does he assure his hardline social base in the Revolutionary Guards, the Basij and the army that he is on their side rather than on the side of moderates, but also he is empowering them to begin controlling the moderates and more freely criticizing Rouhani's team.
Third, whenever a president gains popularity, Khamenei attempts to curb the president by empowering hardliners. Fourth, Khamenei's modus of operandi is to avoid any situation that holds him accountable for major issues. On the one hand he gives license to and instructs Rouhani to make a deal, on the other hand he tells the public that this is not what he wanted. Therefore, if Iran pulls out of the nuclear deal or people do not see the fruit of the sanctions relief, they would point fingers to Rouhani. Finally, by criticizing Rouhani, Zarif, and the US, Khamenei seems to be preparing the platform to pull out of the nuclear agreement after sanctions have been lifted.
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is an American political scientist, business advisor and the president of the International American Council on the Middle East. Harvard-educated, Rafizadeh serves on the advisory board of Harvard International Review. An American citizen, he is originally from Iran and Syria, lived most of his life in Iran and Syria till recently. He is a board member of several significant and influential international and governmental institutions, and he is native speaker of couple of languages including Arabic and Persian. He also speaks English and Dari, and can converse in French, Hebrew.
You can learn more about Dr. Rafizadeh on HERE.
You can contact him at Dr.email@example.com or follow him at @Dr_Rafizadeh. This post first appeared on Al Arabiya.