Commentary Magazine


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What Iran Really Wants

Iran’s negotiating proposal is now public. Just like its previous incarnation, it is revealing. Anyone familiar with the rhetoric of the Islamic Republic will recognize in these pages the recurrence of Iran’s central grievance—namely, the need for a new world order where Iran, as a leading member of the Non-Aligned Movement, has its proper place in the sun.

Whether Western leaders take this rhetoric seriously is now an important question. In the discussion surrounding Iran’s nuclear program, all the talk about whether Iran is or is not rational misses the point of what Iran’s regime is about and wants to achieve. Iran may not be wedded to the kind of apocalyptic politics that the rhetoric of some of its leaders frequently suggests; but it remains, at heart, a revolutionary power driven by an ideology that successfully weds Persian nationalism, Shia revivalism, Third World-ism, and revolutionary Marxist-Leninist theories. Its devastating potential always derived from this explosive combination of the subversive with the divine. Its quest for nuclear weapons is driven, at the very least, by the desire to push this agenda more aggressively and more successfully.

Its offer, with no mention of its nuclear program or its obligations under the NPT or UN Security Council Resolutions, reflects this desire to export Iran’s revolution and its underlying worldview and to shape a new world order in its image. The international community is entitled to seek a diplomatic solution to the standoff, of course. But it should not equivocate about, discount, or downplay Iran’s real intentions—for Iran, negotiations are not about Iranian concessions but about Western peaceful surrender through polite parley before a nuclear Iran can exact similar terms in much blunter ways.