Mehdi Khaliji writes: Iran’s ruling regime pays close attention to American politics in its own calculations about how to negotiate with Washington—and how to game the new diplomatic effort. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and his inner circle, for example, believe that President Barack Obama needs to talk to Iran, but they also sense that the U.S. president will be unable to make any concessions because it might endanger his reelection bid.
So Tehran has concluded that Obama needs to prolong the talks and achieve minor goals to demonstrate that talks are making progress.
The regime also believes that reaching an agreement with Washington before the presidential election will be futile, since a new administration could change U.S. discourse and any agreement that is reached before the election.
As a result, the regime has concluded that both sides will benefit in delaying any substantive agreement until after the U.S. elections in November.
In the meantime, Khamenei continues to believe that neither the United States nor Israel is willing to attack Iranian nuclear facilities, at least before the U.S. election. So rather than seek a solution to the standoff, Iran’s short-term goal is to decrease diplomatic pressure, or at least prevent new sanctions before the election.
Historically, the Islamic Republic has viewed Republican presidents more favorably than Democratic ones. In 2008, nuclear negotiator Hassan Rowhani said publically that Iran would prefer that a Republican win the presidential election because Democrats incessantly pressured Tehran. In trying to game diplomatic talks in its favor, Iran could even employ the nuclear issue to influence the U.S. presidential election—in an attempt to replicate the impact of the 1979-1981 hostage crisis. President Jimmy Carter’s inability to resolve that crisis contributed to Ronald Reagan’s victory. [Continue reading…]