Is Chuck Hagel a chance for Iran?
It seems that Tehran is seriously interested in improving its relations with the United States, perhaps, for the first time since the revolution of 1979. Undoubtedly, all this is due to the fact that Iran found itself in economic and political crisis, mainly as a result of its nuclear policy. The Iranian authorities have to admit that economic sanctions inflict heavy losses on the country's financial system. The Minister of Petroleum Rostam Ghasemi, who had recently persistently denied the effects of sanctions on the country's economy, announced a 40% reduction of oil exports during the nine-month period starting from March 2012 (the beginning of the Iranian year). Earlier in December, Minister of Economy Shamseddin Hosseini said that oil revenues had decreased by 50% because of the sanctions. According to the OPEC data, Iran's oil exports declined from 2.4 million barrels per day in 2011 to 1 million barrels per day in 2012. The total volume of oil production in Iran decreased by 25%, that is to the level of 3 million barrels per day. Such a volume of production in Iran was registered only during the most difficult period of the Iran-Iraq war. It is critical for the financial system, which is 80% dependent on oil revenues.
This difficult financial and economic situation of the country has an impact on politics. Dissatisfaction with the current policy of the government and of its head is growing in the country, and not only among ordinary people, but, more importantly, among the elite, which is increasingly aware that the world can do without Iranian oil, while Iran suffers from the deficit of oil dollars. On January, 16 President Ahmadinejad will account for his policy to the Majlis.
It was at the end of the last year that Tehran started discussing direct negotiations with the United States. In this connection Russian political scientist Boris Shmelev says:
“Of course, the Iranian leadership is interested in normalization of relations and in cooperation with the United States, because the measures against Iran undertaken by the Americans badly hurt the Iranian economy, and Iranian influence in the world and in the region. And so, the Iranian authorities are ready to undertake some conciliatory steps”.
But there is not much time for such steps. Parliamentary elections in Israel will be held on January 22. And according to all the data, the right-wing Netanyahu - Lieberman bloc is going to win it. And they consider Iran the main enemy of the Jewish state and are ready for a military solution of the Iranian nuclear problem. It may not be true that in this situation new US Minister of Defense Chuck Hagel will rush to defend Iran only because he once used to criticize the activities of the Jewish lobby in the US Congress. Here is the opinion of the leading scientist of the Institute of Oriental Studies Tatiana Nosenko:
“The issue of Iran's nuclear program is of paramount importance for the Americans. What methods will be used in order to deter Iran from obtaining nuclear potential? The Obama administration prefers diplomatic and political ways of settling the problem. But military plans are on the table, too. And I think that Hagel’s appointment will not be the main factor in selecting a means of pressure. Everything will depend on the future situation in the region and on the development of relations between the USA and Iran”.
But in Tehran they still consider Chuck Hagel to be their chance, at least, to preserve the status quo, or, at the maximum, to create the basis for a compromise before the June presidential election in Iran. However, this seems unlikely before the election of a new president of the IRI, because though there will be a new Minister of Defense in the USA, the Iranian government will remain the same.