Dr. Farago, a proliferation specialist, is a research fellow at the Institute of Social Sciences at Sogang University and a visiting scholar at the United States-Korea Institute at the School of Advanced International Studies (Johns Hopkins University). He holds a PhD in politics and international studies from the University of Cambridge.
On November 24, 2013, after nearly two-and-a-half years of significant economic pressure on Iran by the United States and Europe, the two sides reached a Joint Plan of Action for six months (also referred to as the interim agreement). The agreement entered into force on January 20, 2014, and was extended for a period of four months in late July 2014.1 In return for a temporary and partial suspension of the American and European economic sanctions that had been imposed on it, Iran agreed to constrain its nuclear activity. Thus, Iran pledged to suspend its 20 percent uranium enrichment, convert half of its stockpile of 20 percent enriched uranium to oxide, and to dilute the other half to no more than 5 percent. Iran also agreed to refrain from installing additional centrifuges and increasing its stockpile of uranium enriched up to 5 percent by converting newly enriched uranium to oxide. Moreover, Iran consented not to transfer fuel or heavy water to the Arak nuclear site, to halt construction work on the site, and not to build a reprocessing facility capable of producing plutonium as a by-product.2
Essentially, these measures are meant to limit Iran's fissile-material production effort while the two sides negotiate a long-term solution. However, there has been heavy criticism from neoconservatives because the provisions of the interim agreement fall short of addressing the full scope of UN Security Council (UNSC) resolutions. These resolutions would require Iran to completely suspend its uranium-enrichment activities and cooperate fully with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in its quest to gather information about Iran's nuclear weaponization projects.
In the following sections I present neoconservatives' critique of the interim agreement, the difficulties in persuading Tehran to accept Washington's demands for a long-term agreement, and the neoconservative alternative of dealing with the Iranian (nuclear) conundrum through regime change. I then examine the prospects for a regime change and transition to democracy in Iran by using Steven Levitzky and Lucan Way's model of leverage and linkage variables and by conducting a historical analysis of the interface between Iran's relations with the West and its past revolutions.
I conclude that a regime change in Iran is far from feasible and, more important, that the American and European containment policy is counterproductive to the goal of bringing about democracy in Iran. Moreover, containment may push Iran to cross the nuclear threshold, following the same path as North Korea. Instead, I suggest that a policy of engagement, accompanied by a gradual relieving of the sanctions on Tehran, is more likely to dissuade Iran's leaders from entering the nuclear club. In the long run, a policy of engagement would also be conducive to a transition to democracy in Iran.
THE NEOCONSERVATIVE CRITIQUE
Michael Ledeen and John Hannah are two of the most outspoken neoconservative critics of the interim agreement. They warn that it not only recognizes Iran's right to continue to enrich uranium, but allows Iran to keep its current stockpile of uranium enriched to 3.5 percent. If Iran chooses to abort the dialogue with the West, this stockpile can be used to produce fissile material for several nuclear bombs in a matter of a few months. They also argue that the agreement sends a clear message to the Iranian opposition and U.S. allies in the region, conveying the weakness of the Obama administration in dealing with the theocratic and "bloody minded" ayatollahs' regime.3
A glance at Iran's history of negotiations with the West shows that Ledeen and Hannah's misgivings about the agreement are not without merit. In 2003, after the American invasion of Iraq and with the threat of a similar action in Iran, Tehran agreed to a much more comprehensive, although temporary, moratorium on its nuclear activity. Less than two years later, as America got bogged down in the Iraqi and Afghan quagmires, Iran resumed its nuclear quest. Moreover, several times in the last decade Iran turned down a grand bargain with the West that could have provided it with a variety of political, economic and technological incentives in return for giving up its plan for an independent nuclear fuel cycle.
The Iranian insistence on acquiring an independent nuclear fuel cycle and weapons-production capabilities is inextricably linked to the fact that Iran perceives itself as a regional heavyweight. Tehran has aspirations and interests in the Persian Gulf and the Middle East that collide with those of a much stronger actor in the region — the United States. A few cases in point include Iran's active role in blocking Iyad al-Allawi and the Iraqiyya slate's path to power in Iraq by assisting Nouri al-Maliki in the formation of a Shiite coalition,4 in promoting subversion in Bahrain, and in assisting the Asad regime in Syria with men and weapons.
Thus, Iran is expected to resist the imposition of severe restrictions on its nuclear activity under a long-term agreement, as these restrictions would deprive the regime of the option to acquire a nuclear deterrent against the United States within a short period of time. In the negotiations with Tehran, Washington and its European allies are aiming to cap Iran's uranium enrichment activity by reducing the number of its centrifuges to less than a few thousand for at least a decade or two.5 They also want to prevent Iran from developing a new generation of centrifuges, limit its stockpile of enriched uranium, scrap or incapacitate the nuclear reactor project at Arak and ban the processing of spent nuclear fuel independently in Iranian territory.6 During the 1970s, the Imperial State of Iran — the country Henry Kissinger described as "the eastern anchor of our Mideast policy"7 — had staunchly staved off similar American demands and pressure to limit its nuclear fuel cycle.8 Back then, Tehran feared that it would eventually have to lock horns with Moscow over regional issues. Could the Obama administration succeed where the Ford and Carter administrations failed?
In recent years, America has seemed a far less potent adversary to Iran than it did a decade ago. It is financially overstretched, has withdrawn its forces from Iraq, and is on the verge of pulling out of Afghanistan. A study published in April 2013 by "the Iran Project," and signed by former U.S. government officials, illustrates how reluctant Washington is to pay the high costs of a military campaign against Iran — even a limited one — in the event of a nuclear crisis.9 Significantly, an American and/or Israeli strike against Iran's nuclear installations could provide Tehran with the pretext for imposing limitations on the IAEA's activity in Iran and perhaps for withdrawing from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Iran may even opt to cross the nuclear threshold by carrying out a nuclear test, sooner or later, depending on the results of the strike. Well aware of its adversaries' limitations, Tehran would not easily cede to the demands of U.S. negotiators.
Ultimately, the Obama administration may find itself at a crossroads. The administration could make substantial concessions and allow Iran more independence in controlling its nuclear fuel cycle under a long-term agreement. Alternatively, the administration could reverse course and join Congress in implementing the neoconservative strategy of augmenting the economic pressure on Tehran in an effort to achieve complete Iranian capitulation to America's demands and, perhaps, even a regime change.
SANCTIONS AND LIMITED STRIKES
The American and European economic sanctions have failed thus far to convince Tehran to comply with UNSC resolutions, but they have damaged the Iranian economy. This plausibly contributed to the defeat of the conservative camp in the June 2013 elections. In contrast to the regime's decision to manipulate the results of the June 2009 elections in favor of Ahmadinejad, in June 2013 Ayatollah Ali Khamenei chose not to carry out another electoral coup, but to accept the victory of Hassan Rouhani, who enjoyed the support of the reformist movement.
Thus, Michael Ledeen and John Hannah praise the sanctions for weakening the regime by substantially increasing Iran's economic and social instability. A few months before the interim agreement was signed, Ledeen opined that a regime change in Iran was close at hand because the Iranian public held the clerics accountable for the wretched situation in the country.10 Hannah added that the massive street demonstrations of June 2009 and Rouhani's victory in the June 2013 elections prove wrong the "conventional wisdom" that "the imposition of 'crippling sanctions'… strengthen the Islamic Republic by triggering a 'rally around the regime' effect."11
Furthermore, Ledeen blamed the Bush and Obama administrations for abandoning the Iranian opposition and urged Washington to support it financially, technologically and politically.12 For Bill Kristol, founder and editor of the Weekly Standard, imposing incisive economic sanctions on Iran and supporting the opposition is not enough to bring down the regime. For almost a decade he has advocated measured military force to further alienate the masses from the regime. According to his line of thinking, the Iranian public would blame the ayatollahs, not Washington, for the destruction and losses caused by American attacks.13 On the same note, Hannah claimed that a few opposition activists whom he had met in Europe after the June 2009 presidential elections supported a selective military strike against Iran's nuclear installations and Revolutionary Guard targets. They told Hannah that a selective strike would further discredit the regime to the point of collapse while making it difficult for the Revolutionary Guard to crack down on the opposition.14
Significantly, a regime change in Tehran would not necessarily dissuade Iran from pursuing nuclear-weapons production. This quest is related to Iran's regional interests, which may continue to collide, regardless of regime, with those of the United States and its Arab allies over issues such as the future of Iraq and Bahrain. Nevertheless, as Robert Kagan of the Brookings Institution and Ledeen point out, the nuclear threat is inextricably linked to the ideological nature of the Iranian regime. Notwithstanding Rouhani's victory in the presidential elections, the incumbent clerical regime still includes dominant figures who believe in exporting the Islamic Revolution and apocalyptic eschatology. A democratic Iran, on the other hand, is likely to be more calculated and reserved in using its force. Moreover it "will not be inclined to commit hara-kiri by launching a nuclear first strike against Israel, nor will it likely brandish its bombs against the United States."15
Before reversing course and adopting the neoconservative strategy for dealing with Iran, however, the Obama administration should consider the repercussions of such actions. It is possible that implementing the neoconservative strategy could backfire.
PRESSURE TO DEMOCRATIZE
After examining different cases of authoritarian regimes that have been pressured to democratize in the post-Cold War era, Stephen Levitsky and Lucan Way found that the degree of Western leverage over a state and its linkage to the West were positively correlated to democratic change.16 Effective Western leverage could weaken an authoritarian regime enough to trigger democratic concessions or the collapse of the regime, while strong linkages to the West could assist the opposition in gaining the support of the masses. Thus, leverage and linkage are instrumental in promoting scenarios similar to those that Samuel Huntington observed and described as scenarios of replacement and transplacement.
In the replacement scenario, "reformers within the regime are weak or nonexistent. … Democratization consequently results from the opposition gaining strength and the government losing strength until the government collapses or is overthrown."17 Transplacement, on the other hand, occurs when reformers within the regime become empowered in the face of an increasingly strong opposition and hence force hardliners to engage in dialogue with the opposition.18
The ensuing question is this: Do the United States and Europe possess effective leverage and substantial linkages to Iran to goad it into transitioning to democracy?
Levitsky and Way define Western leverage as "authoritarian governments' vulnerability to external democratizing pressures." This vulnerability is affected and determined by three indicators. The first, "raw size and military and economic strength," suggests that stronger states in terms of hard power have been more immune to the effects of external punitive measures.19 Looking at hard power indicators, Iran, a nation of almost 80 million and the eighteenth-largest country by land area in the world (1,648,195 sq km), is the undisputed predominant local force in the Persian Gulf. While the American and European sanctions on Iran caused negative GDP real growth rates in 2012 and 2013 (-1.9 percent and -1.5 percent, respectively) after two decades of continuous increase, Iran continues to be the largest economy in the Gulf, with a GDP on a purchasing-power parity (PPP) basis of $987.1 million. All in all, between 2009 and 2013, under the yoke of both Ahmadinejad's economic mismanagement and foreign sanctions, Iran's GDP at official exchange rates climbed from $335.7 billion to $411.9 billion while its GDP per capita on a PPP basis decreased slightly, from $12,900 to $12,800.20
In terms of military power, Iran leaves other Gulf nations in the dust. According to the Power Index (Pwrindx) of the website Global Fire Power, Iran is the twenty-second-strongest nation in the world, with 545,000 active military personnel, 1.8 million reserves and nearly 40 million men fit for service.21 Thus, Iran's conventional capabilities pose no less a formidable challenge to the American military than those of North Korea (ranked thirty-fifth on the Pwrindx). Significantly, as early as 1999, former Secretary of Defense William Perry warned that an American attempt to topple the regime in Pyongyang by force might result in the death of hundreds of thousands of soldiers.22 An all-out military confrontation between the United States and Iran could come with a similar, if not considerably higher, price tag. As with its cautious conduct on the peninsula prior to North Korea's first nuclear test in 2006, Washington is hesitant to carry out even a limited military strike against Iran's nuclear installations. It is aware that events might spiral out of control and lead to a protracted and costly war in the Middle East.
The second indicator reflecting Western leverage is "the existence of competing issues on Western foreign-policy agendas." Levitsky and Way found that "leverage may be limited, and regimes less vulnerable to external democratization pressure, in countries where Western governments have important economic or security interests at stake."23 In such cases, "Western powers are less likely to maintain consensus behind demands for political reform, thereby limiting the effectiveness of those demands."24 These competing sides may also make it difficult for Western powers to maintain a unified front around necessary measures to promote their demands for reform in the target state.
As far as the European Union is concerned, Iran is a quintessential example of colliding economic and political agendas. By the end of the first decade of the new millennium, Europe was Iran's largest trading partner and accounted for nearly a third of Iranian exports (in 2010, the annual trade between the EU and Iran was estimated at €25.8 billion).25 This has made it difficult for Washington to harness Europe in its two-decade effort to stifle the Iranian economy. Thus, in early July 2010, after President Obama had signed a law "impos[ing] penalties on foreign entities that sell refined petroleum to Iran or assist Iran with its domestic refining capacity,"26 Catherine Ashton, the EU foreign policy chief, sent a letter to Secretary of State Clinton reminding her that Washington had pledged in 1998 not to sanction European companies for doing business with Iran.27 Ashton's letter reflected fears that stopping the exportation of European refined oil to Iran would result in damage to European companies, rather than to Iran, as Russia and Venezuela have a large enough refining capacity to replace European gasoline.28 China, for its part, started exporting gasoline to Iran in 2008, and by 2010 already accounted for around one-third of Iran's imported gasoline.29
Although in late July 2010 the EU decided to ban investments in major sectors of the Iranian economy, including oil-refining and gas-exploration technology and equipment,30 it took the Obama administration two more years to persuade Europe to augment the pressure on Iran. Consequently, in January, July and October 2012, the EU adopted and implemented a series of sanctions against Iran that prohibited oil and natural-gas trade with the Islamic Republic as well as transactions between Iranian and European financial institutions.31
Still, from Washington's perspective, the European sanctions on Iran were not comprehensive enough to meet the challenge of bringing the regime in Tehran to its knees. In late February 2013, an influential group of American senators, both Democrats and Republicans, sent a letter to the president of the European Council, Herman van Rompuy, in which they pointed to significant loopholes in the European sanctions that enable Iran to continue using its foreign-held euro reserves via the European Traget2 interbank payment system.32 Moreover, the EU General Court's decision of September 6, 2013, to strike down European sanctions against seven Iranian companies33 emphasizes the legal hurdles, on top of the political difficulties, that the United States would have to overcome in order to promote and enforce incisive sanctions against Iran in Europe.
Other American allies, such as India, Japan and South Korea, have succeeded in convincing the Obama administration to use its prerogative and exempt them from U.S. sanctions which threaten entities that trade in oil with Iran by cutting them off from the American financial system, after they had significantly reduced their imports of Iranian oil.34 The Joint Plan of Action has, however, enabled these Asian countries to increase their purchase of Iranian oil.35 India, for example, in the first half of 2014, imported 281,000 barrels per day (bpd) of oil from Iran (69,000 bpd more than during the first six months of 2013), and it is second only to China in importing Iranian oil.36 In this regard, The European Union has eased its sanctions on Tehran to allow European firms to insure and transport Iranian oil to India, Japan and South Korea, as well as to China and Turkey.37
Crucially, as of summer 2014, the U.S. Senate is deliberating over draft legislation that requires America's allies to continue to reduce their purchases of Iranian oil if the Joint Plan of Action fails to result in Iranian compliance with UNSC resolutions. The provisions of the draft also make it difficult for President Obama to waive the American sanctions on countries that fail to comply with the requirements of Congress.38 If passed and signed into a bill, this legislation could widen the rift between Washington and its allies over the Iranian issue.
The prudent decision of Europe and other American allies not to burn all the bridges to Iran and its oil industry has much to do with a third indicator Levitsky and Way consider to have a significant effect on states' vulnerability to Western leverage: the availability of political, economic or military support from an alternative regional power. Such support can dramatically mitigate Western leverage.39 In this regard, Iran has benefited thus far from a Chinese and Russian diplomatic umbrella that has thwarted American efforts to impose decisive international economic sanctions that could have shaken the foundations of the regime. Moreover, China's state-run Zhuhai Zhenrong Corporation and Russia's largest oil company, Lukoil, have refused to heed American and European sanctions on Iran. This turns these sanctions into a double-edged sword. In the long run, Chinese and Russian companies are likely to fill the void created by the European withdrawal from the Iranian oil market, thus vitiating the effect of the sanctions, as in the case of Sudan, where Chinese companies replaced Western companies that withdrew from the country.40
It is worth noting that, in 2009, China replaced the EU as Tehran's largest trading partner, with a volume of more than $36.5 billion ($1 billion more than the trade volume between Europe and Iran in that year).41 In 2011 and 2012, the trade volume between China and Iran was significantly higher in comparison to its European-Iranian equivalent — $45 and $37 billion versus €28.3 and €14.9 billion (approximately $38.5 and $20.3 billion).42 Evidently, the American sanctions on Iran negatively affected the China-Iran trade in 2012 and will probably hamper Tehran's plan to increase its bilateral trade with Beijing to $50 billion by 2015. However, China's support for Iran is not based merely on economic interests. It is derived from and inextricably related to Beijing's political aspirations and national-security interests. Thus, instead of yielding to American pressure and following in the footsteps of Europe by cutting its economic ties with Iran, Beijing is expected to work together with Tehran to bypass American and European sanctions.
So is Moscow. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Moscow has walked a fine line between cooperating with Washington and seeking to regain at least some of its lost power and influence by promoting the creation of a multipolar world.43 Thus, the importance of nurturing its relations and developing its cooperation with Iran is derived not merely from an economic rationale, but also, and perhaps even more fundamentally, from a political one. Iran is the only major power in the Middle East that opposes American hegemony in the region. This may explain why Moscow has refused to bow to American pressure and abrogate its Bushehr deal with Iran. Instead, towards the end of the first decade of the new millennium, it decided to upgrade its economic cooperation with Tehran, including joint projects to develop Iran's oil and gas industry.44 Notably, Moscow's growing interest in Iran's energy sector can also be interpreted as a measure to offset economic and political losses that Moscow might incur as a result of American attempts to build new oil and gas pipelines in ex-Soviet states and thus to reduce their dependency on Russian pipelines.45 Moreover, the development of energy cooperation between Russia and Iran, which together control approximately 20 percent of the world's oil reserves and 40 percent of its gas reserves, holds a great deal of economic potential and political significance for Moscow.46
Therefore, Oleg Rozhkov, the deputy director of the security affairs and disarmament department in Russia's foreign ministry, clarified as early as February 2010 — four months prior to UNSC Resolution 1929 — that Moscow was "not going to work on sanctions or measures which could lead to the political or economic or financial isolation of this country [Iran]."47 Moscow is also committed to preventing American and European unilateral sanctions from bringing down the regime in Tehran. Thus, in the summer of 2014, Moscow and Tehran were close to striking a $20 billion deal in which Iran would supply Russia with oil at an average rate of 500,000 bpd for a period of two to three years.48 On a yearly basis, 500,000 bpd is one-fifth of Iran's oil exports in 2011 (2.5 million bpd on average). Moreover, it is more than one-third of Iran's expected oil exports in 2014 (1.37 bpd on average, based on the first three months of the year).49 Moscow and Tehran are also negotiating a $10 billion deal for the construction of thermal and hydroelectric plants in Iran.50
Strategic calculations may also have contributed to China's decision to reject a Saudi offer to supply China "the same amount of oil it currently imports from Iran, at much lower prices."51 This Chinese decision calls into question the analysis of former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates in February 2010 that "Saudi Arabia is more important to both Beijing and Moscow than Iran."52 Immensely troubled by the prospect of a Western move to manipulate oil prices in an effort to control China's development, Beijing is seeking to diversify its oil suppliers and delivery routes. Thus, for example, it has invested a great deal in the African oil market, especially in countries such as Angola and Sudan, where oil fields can still be found that are not owned by large European oil companies. Beijing has also invested in Kazakhstan's and Turkmenistan's oil and gas markets and in pipelines that would connect them to China. Nevertheless, China's growing demand for oil, which is expected to reach 11.3 million bpd by 2015, cannot be sated without Middle Eastern oil.53
In 2013, China imported 5.6 million bpd on average. Significantly, the oil-production capabilities of Angola (1.83 million bpd), Kazakhstan (1.65 million bpd), Venezuela (2.48 million bpd), Sudan and South Sudan (theoretically, capable of producing 485,000 bpd cumulatively) are far below those of the Gulf states. For example, Saudi Arabia produces 11.8 million bpd, the UAE 3.2 million bpd and Kuwait 2.8 million bpd. In 2013 Saudi Arabia, China's largest oil supplier, provided Beijing with more than 1 billion bpd on average (19 percent of China's total imports).54 However, all of the aforementioned Arab states are also American clients. Iran — in 2011 China's third-largest supplier of oil, with a production capability of 4.2 million bpd on average — is bound to play an important role in China's long-term strategy of diversifying its oil sources in the region and reducing its vulnerability to the manipulation of oil prices by the United States or its allies. In 2011, for example, Tehran accounted for 9 percent of China's total oil imports (555,000 bpd on average). In 2013, even under the augmented United States sanctions, China imported 429,000 bpd of Iranian oil (8 percent of China's total oil imports).55
Clearly, China has not neglected Iran, though it has not compensated Tehran for lost European oil imports. Beijing's conduct may provide a ray of hope to those who believe China could be persuaded to maintain the pressure on Iran by not increasing its imports of Iranian oil. But how long will China remain on the fence? A recent report suggests that, in the first half of 2014, China increased by 50 percent its imports of Iranian oil.56 Moreover, a glance at Beijing's investments and strategic plans in the region suggests that, sooner or later, China will step in to fill the void created by the European withdrawal from Iran.
In recent years, China has invested $120 billion in Iran's energy sector and has signed a contract to invest a further $6.5 billion in building oil refineries in Iran. In this regard, the withdrawal of large European oil companies from Iran would serve China's interests and strategy. In addition, Beijing is interested in the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline project, which has already aroused a great deal of indignation in Washington. China expressed its intention to replace India, after India decided to abandon the project. Evidently, China is planning to extend the pipeline from Gwadar to Xinjiang.57
Tehran plays yet another important role in China's diversification strategy. In the last decade, Iran has invested a great deal of effort in preventing Iraq from becoming an American client. In order for Chinese and Russian oil companies to continue to compete successfully with American oil companies in the development of oil fields in Shiite southern Iraq,58 it would be beneficial if Iran's efforts in Iraq bore fruit. Significantly, in 2013, 8 percent of China's total oil imports came from Iraq, which is expected to reach oil-production capabilities of 9.5 million bpd in 2017.59
As in the case of North Korea, Beijing views Iran's nuclear-weapons program as a major source of regional instability and potential crises that might spiral out of control and disrupt China's energy supply and development.60 Thus, China has "consistently" conveyed to Tehran its strong opposition to "Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons."61 From Moscow's perspective, this weapons program might drive a wedge between itself and the United States — one of Moscow's major trading partners, with whom it enjoys a positive trade balance ($26.9 billion in exports versus $11.1 billion in imports in 2013).62 Moreover, Russia is troubled by the possibility that a nuclear Iran would become bold enough to challenge Russian interests in Central Asia and the Caspian basin.63
For such reasons, China and Russia joined hands with the West in sponsoring the June 2006 and 2008 P5+1 packages of economic and technical incentives that were offered to Tehran in return for its full cooperation with the IAEA. They also supported UNSC Resolution 1696 in August 2006, which demanded that Iran suspend all uranium-enrichment and plutonium-reprocessing activities. Both countries have since expressed their concern over Iran's nuclear-weapons program by supporting four rounds of UNSC sanctions on Iran. Significantly, Beijing agreed to start the drafting of UNSC Resolution 1929 (adopted in June 2010) regardless of, and almost immediately after, Washington's announcement in January 2010 of an arms deal worth $6.4 billion with Taiwan64 and President Obama's meeting with the Dalai Lama the following month.65 China's tardiness in filling the void caused by Europe's pullout from Iran's oil market may also be related to Beijing's efforts to persuade Iran to reach a settlement with the P5+1.
As Yitzhak Shichor, a renowned Israeli political scientist and sinologist, astutely remarks, a failure to impose sanctions on Iran or the ineffectiveness of such sanctions might lead to the use of force against Iran. "Unlike sanctions, the use of force does not have to reflect universality or unanimity to be effective, as demonstrated in the second Gulf War."66 According to Shichor, this would be the worst possible scenario from China's perspective. Indeed, during his meeting with United States Under Secretary of State William Burns on December 9, 2009, the director of the Chinese Communist Party's Central Committee International Liaison Department (CCID), Wang Jiarui, expressed Beijing's grave concerns about the possibility of an Israeli strike on Iran "were the situation not handled properly."67
However, would an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities escalate into a war with the United States? Is the American administration willing and able to pay much higher costs than those it has paid in Afghanistan and Iraq? Would a war bring about regime change and nation-building? Or would a war end with the ayatollahs remaining in power without their nuclear-weapons program, just as the first Gulf War ended with Saddam still holding the reins of power in Iraq? China and Russia may well thwart any diplomatic move that would endanger the survivability of the ayatollahs' regime and thus their long-term politico-economic interests in the Middle East, unless they are convinced, not only that a military operation against Iran is imminent, but also that it would lead to regime change and nation-building. For the time being, China and Russia oppose the use of incisive sanctions that would severely cripple the Iranian economy, as reflected in the drafting process of Resolution 1929 and in their critique of the unilateral American and European sanctions imposed on Iran.68 This may indicate that Beijing and Moscow believe that an American and/or Israeli military action is still not imminent or that a military contingency would not end the ayatollahs' reign.
LINKAGE TO THE WEST
Although substantive leverage plays an important role in pressuring authoritarian regimes towards a transition to democracy, Levitsky and Way found that "mechanisms of leverage… were by themselves rarely sufficient to democratize post-Cold War autocracies. Rather, the more subtle and diffuse effect of linkage contributed more consistently to democratization."69 Linkage to the West, as Levitsky and Way define it, is the "density of [a state's or regime's] ties to the United States, the EU, and Western-dominated multilateral institutions."70
High levels of linkage to the West create audiences in different echelons of society that are eager to promote Western norms and ideals. At times, this eagerness does not necessarily reflect an acceptance and assimilation of liberal democratic ideals, at least not initially, but instead reflects economic interests and considerations.71 In many cases, high levels of linkage to the West result in economic growth, urbanization and the creation of a solid middle class — all developments that typically herald democratization.72 Significantly, Levitsky and Way present linkage to the West as "mostly a product of geography, of such historical factors as colonialism and geostrategic alliances, and of long-term processes of social and economic integration."73
In this regard, Iran's encounters with the West throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries were frequent and intense. Iran's ignominious military defeats and loss of territories to Russia in the first half of the nineteenth century increased its interest in Western technology, education and governance. This interest led the monarchy to open Iran's doors to the West. The establishment of linkage with the West and the desire to emulate its political institutions aroused fledgling democratic notions in Iran. In the early twentieth century, these notions were expressed by popular support for limiting the power of the shah through a constitutional revolution and the introduction of a parliament. In the mid-twentieth century, this linkage with the West was responsible for the popularity and electoral success of Mohammad Mosaddegh and the National Front at the expense of the monarchy and its supporters.
At the same time, however, the aforementioned democratic aspirations and breakthroughs were also motivated by the abhorrence the Iranian elite and masses felt towards what they perceived as an exploitative linkage that was sustained as a result of inept monarchical policy. Thus, the economic exploitation of Persia by the West was one of the most effective banners used to rally the masses in all of the rebellions/revolutions that Iran experienced, beginning with the Tobacco Revolt at the end of the nineteenth century.74 Ironically, Iranians, who were initially interested in forming a linkage with the West, found themselves trying to adopt Western institutions in order to relieve themselves of the burden of such linkage.
Unsurprisingly, Britain and the United States, concerned about their economic and, later on, oil-based interests in Iran, and propelled by geopolitical considerations, consistently impeded the waves of democracy that threatened to end the shah's absolute monarchy. Thus, for example, in 1907 — a year after the promulgation of the first Iranian constitution — Britain and Russia decided to divide the country into spheres of influence. During the First World War, Iran was unwillingly turned into a battleground between the forces of the Triple Entente and the Central Powers, while its economy was harnessed to serve the British war effort. The deleterious effect of the war on the Iranian economy and the inability of the government to take advantage of its indigenous oil resources, which were coveted by Britain, exacerbated centrifugal forces among the different ethnic groups in the country and highlighted the weaknesses of the central government and parliament. These conditions created a fertile breeding ground for the 1921 revolution, which was instigated by Reza Shah. Consequently, Iran was once again ruled by an absolute monarch.
In the early 1950s, against the backdrop of strong popular resentment of the foreign exploitation of Iran's natural resources, the liberal democratic National Front government led a parliamentary decision to nationalize Iran's British-owned oil market. This decision and Cold War considerations stimulated London and Washington to orchestrate a coup against Mosaddegh and his ruling party, reinstating the shah as the absolute sovereign and turning parliament into a rubber stamp. Britain and America's continuing support of the shah and his repressive regime fueled the flames of resentment felt by the elite and the masses towards the monarchy. This resentment led eventually to the 1979 Islamic Revolution.75 Overnight, Iran's linkage with the West was cut. Linkage, mostly with European countries, was gradually re-established following the Iran-Iraq War.
Despite the ugly side of its previous linkage with the West, it is plausible that Iran is a good candidate for a successful transition to democracy. Its historic struggle for democracy, strong educational and economic linkages to Europe, active diasporas in Europe and the United States, and Iranians' participation in the cyber revolution are all necessary prerequisites for a possible transition to democracy. However, are these elements sufficient? Should we interpret the massive street demonstrations in Iran that followed Ahmadinejad's electoral coup in June 2009 and Rouhani's victory in the June 2013 presidential elections as a sign that democracy is on the doorstep?
Historically speaking, all of the previous revolutions in modern Iran took place under similar conditions. Essentially, the country and its inhabitants fell into a state of economic destitution and an alliance, formed among the merchants, landlords, intellectuals and clerics, led the masses in challenging foreign economic exploitation and a weak central government. At present, such an alliance does not exist. It is true that Iran is currently facing economic difficulties. However, this is not a new phenomenon. The ayatollahs' ascendancy to power in 1979 did not bring salvation to the poor and oppressed. Iran continued to suffer as a result of high fertility rates,76 rapid urbanization, a weakening agricultural sector, and high levels of inflation. Moreover, decreasing oil prices in the 1980s and 1990s, coupled with American sanctions, hindered Iran's economic rehabilitation following the Iran-Iraq War. In the 1990s, these economic difficulties invited much domestic criticism, which was levied against the Iranian government. Newspapers blamed the regime and President Rafsanjani for Iran's poor economic situation while presenting as preposterous the government's claims that the enemies of the revolution outside Iran were responsible for its economic destitution. The economic distress of the 1990s even brought some prominent ayatollahs to question whether the clerics should continue to hold absolute political power. Furthermore, it gave rise to a wave of riots and demonstrations against the regime in various cities.77
The aforementioned description has much in common with the events that preceded and followed the presidential elections in June 2009. However, as in the 1990s, the wave of harsh criticism and resentment of the regime in 2009 failed to bring about any change in the Iranian power structure. The ensuing question is, why? The answer may be found in the absence of conditions that were present on the eve of previous revolutions in Iran. Conspicuous in this regard is the failure of various opposition groups to cease their internal struggles for pre-eminence, to rally around a charismatic leader, and to offer an ideological and political alternative to the current power structure.
Consequently, in June 2009, the opposition's aspirations for change were channeled in support of a feeble regime insider. For Iranian political activists such as Ali Afshari, Mir Hosein Musavi is "a charisma-challenged former prime minister who had over the preceding two decades spent more time on art than on politics."78 Afshari further concedes that despite the chanting of slogans such as "death to the dictator" (aimed at Ahmadinejad) and later "freedom for Iran," many Green Wavers were not interested in "a wholesale overthrow of the regime."79 Abbas Milani of Stanford University concurs, adding that "those who represent a more democratic future have still not mustered enough power and resolve to bring about the needed change."80 Thus, in the June 2013 elections the reformist camp chose again to support a regime insider, Hasan Rouhani. As far as the ayatollahs' regime is concerned, Rouhani is not a harbinger of sweeping democratic reforms, but rather an instrument to be manipulated in order to keep in check the flames of democratic aspiration and prevent them from spreading from the progressive camp to the public at large.
Unlike the political climate during previous uprisings and revolutions, the ayatollahs' regime wields a great deal of power and the resolve to crush democratic aspirations by force. Khamenei did not hesitate to use the Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and the Basij to brutally quell the street demonstrations that followed the elections in June 2009 and to dismiss any public official who dared to sympathize with the Green Movement's cry for change, including the intelligence minister and four of his deputies.81 Khamenei would probably not hesitate to use the IRGC again to thwart any serious attempt by the opposition to undermine the regime.
PROSPECTS FOR THE FUTURE
Events might have unfolded differently following the elections in June 2009, had Washington had stronger linkages to (and hence more leverage over) Tehran. American pressure played an important role in shackling the shah's hands on the eve of the February 1979 Revolution, as well as restraining South Korean military dictator Chun Doo-hwan in the face of mass demonstrations on the streets of Seoul in 1987. However, the strong economic linkage between Washington and Tehran never fully recovered following the Iran-Iraq War. Instead, America has pursued a policy of isolating Iran's economy through a series of unilateral sanctions throughout the 1990s and the new millennium. This has fundamentally decreased the efficacy of direct U.S. punitive economic measures against Iran. Thus, in the event that the nuclear dialogue with Tehran fails, Washington would need to persuade Europe to sustain the sanctions that it had imposed on Iran. Would Europe be prepared to follow in America's footsteps and completely cut its economic ties with Iran? As illustrated earlier in this analysis, the United States would find it difficult to persuade Europe to take such action and would face opposition to its lobbying in Europe in both the diplomatic and legal arenas.
However, for the sake of argument, let us suppose that Europe was prepared to ramp up its sanctions against Iran to match American expectations. Would such economic pressure suffice in the absence of the other aforementioned conditions that have historically preceded revolutions in Iran? There is no clear answer to this question. Notwithstanding, the Iranian middle class will suffer the most from increased Western economic pressure. As a strong middle class has been the backbone of many successful transitions to democracy, enervating its power by forcing more Iranians to live under the poverty line may prove counterproductive to the goal of promoting democracy. Moreover, in the long term, if the West is unsuccessful in pressuring Iran to accept Washington's nonproliferation demands or in bringing about regime change, then China and Russia will probably replace (at least partially) lost Western markets. Therefore, Iran's linkage to China and Russia will grow stronger at the expense of its linkage to the West.
Persuading Beijing and Moscow to support the imposition of incisive international sanctions on Tehran would require Washington to provide guarantees that these sanctions would stop short of bringing about a change of regime in Iran. In addition, Beijing and Russia would need to be assured that their current preferred status in the Iranian oil and nuclear markets would not be impaired. It is highly unlikely that Washington would be able and willing to provide such guarantees and assurances. It is even less likely that Beijing and Moscow would perceive them, if they were given, as credible.
Washington should draw its lessons about prospective Russian and Chinese policies concerning Iran from Moscow's and Beijing's conduct in the six-party talks. Following the collapse of the Agreed Framework in 2002, the Bush administration tried to force North Korea into Complete Verifiable and Irreversible Nuclear Disarmament (CVID) by harnessing the political weight of China, Russia, South Korea and Japan in a multilateral negotiation process with Pyongyang. The purpose was to isolate North Korea in the negotiation process, thus putting it under immense pressure to accede to America's nonproliferation demands. Instead of cooperating with Washington, Moscow and Beijing (as well as Seoul) saw Washington's "all-or-nothing approach" as the main hurdle preventing negotiations from moving forward. They urged Washington to take a step-by-step approach including reciprocal measures to reward Pyongyang, but to no avail.82 Eventually, the deadlock in the six-party talks resulted in North Korea's decision to cross the nuclear threshold by conducting a nuclear test on October 9, 2006.
Ipso facto, Washington should not delude itself that an uncompromising American stance towards Tehran in the P5+1 negotiation process could gain the support of Russia and China. Moreover, in the absence of progress in its dialogue with the P5+1, Tehran may decide to advance its nuclear program. The question then is, what are the alternatives to continued sanctions and pressure diplomacy in multilateral negotiations? Should Washington consider carrying out a limited strike against Iran? While a limited strike may only delay Iran's nuclear-weapons program and provide it with the pretext to cross the nuclear threshold, could a strike assist the opposition in bringing down the ayatollahs, as Kristol and Hannah have suggested?
From a historical perspective, the notion that selective military strikes would trigger a regime change by empowering the opposition and enervating the regime is as questionable as the idea that Western sanctions could topple the ayatollahs. During the Iran-Iraq War, the Iranian people and forces withstood far heavier military attacks and economic pressures. At that point, Iran did not enjoy the support of the Soviet Union, and China was not an economic superpower. If achieving a rapid transition to democracy in Iran by coercion seems like an impossible mission in the short run, in what other ways can Washington and the West address its nuclear-weapons program? It is only logical to examine what engagement with Iran may bring.
To begin with, engagement would require Washington and the West to recognize that, due to the current systemic realities, the most that they can do is to negotiate a temporary cap on uranium enrichment in Iran. In April 2005, Iran offered to ratify the Additional Protocol it had signed in 2003 and to accept continuous on-site inspections at Natanz in return for permission to enrich uranium within Iran. Washington and Europe rejected this offer on the basis that it would enable Iran to master the process of uranium enrichment and build another enrichment facility in secret.83 Since then, the Rubicon has been crossed. By November 2013, when the interim agreement was signed, Iran had accumulated more than 7000 kg of low enriched UF6 (with further processing, enough for several bombs) and 196 kg of UF6 enriched up to 20 percent (240 kg and further processing are needed to make a single bomb).84 Significantly, in compliance with the interim agreement, Iran eliminated its stockpile of UF6 enriched up to 20 percent.85 In 2005, Washington and the West were unwilling to compromise with Tehran because they believed they could coerce it into accepting all of their demands. Clearly, they were wrong. They should not repeat this mistake by overestimating their leverage on Iran.
As of summer 2014, it can be argued that the Iranian nuclear program is at a developmental phase that resembles that in North Korea prior to the 1994 Agreed Framework. In the absence of a long-term nuclear agreement, which would represent a breakthrough in the dialogue between the P5+1 and Iran, Washington and the West should strive to reach a new series of short-term arrangements with the Islamic Republic. These arrangements could offer Tehran incentives such as gradual relief of unilateral and international sanctions and international consent to a periodic increase in the number of working centrifuges in Iran. In return, Tehran would be required to voluntarily adhere to and later ratify the Additional Protocol, and accept continuous on-site inspections of suspected sites in Iran. Essentially, for this initiative to take off, Washington would have to accept more than a few thousand working centrifuges in Iran as a starting point.
The purpose of such short-term arrangements would be to strengthen Iranian cooperation with the IAEA and thus to ensure that Iran does not continue researching weaponization. They would also build trust between the opposing sides and facilitate the continuation of the dialogue for reaching a long-term agreement with Tehran. The alternative is much worse. In the absence of an arrangement with the West, the IAEA would have insufficient tools for monitoring enrichment activities in Iran. This circumstance would lead to greater motivation for, and fewer impediments to, Iran's research into weaponization.
Significantly, a long-term agreement with Tehran should include a detailed process under which Iran would come clean about its past violations of the NPT and fully cooperate with the IAEA to resolve all outstanding issues. In this regard, Iran would have to account for weaponization research activities under projects 110 and 111. However, if Tehran is to be coaxed into signing such an agreement, it may also have to include the prospect of acknowledging Iran's right to a fully independent nuclear fuel cycle. This right is stipulated by the NPT and would be subject to a probation period, to be decided by both sides, during which Iran would be in full compliance with the treaty and its safeguard obligations. Iran wants this probation period to be shorter than a decade.86 Allowing Iran, within less than a decade, to enrich uranium without any cap on the number of working centrifuges or limitations on the amount of uranium that it can stockpile, and to reprocess spent nuclear fuel independently, is a concession that even engagement stalwarts in the United States and Europe would find hard to make. However, the international community has little choice but to swallow the bitter pill if it is determined to prevent Iran from following in the footsteps of North Korea: that is, enriching uranium and reprocessing spent nuclear fuel without IAEA monitoring activities, conducting nuclear tests and accumulating nuclear weapons.
Engagement also holds the promise of turning traditional political foes into economic partners. In the short term, this may enable more fruitful exchanges of views and perhaps even dialogue between Washington and Tehran regarding their conflict of interests in Iraq, the Gulf and the Middle East.87 In the long term, Washington and Europe would be able to create substantive economic linkages to, and hence leverage over, Iran. This should theoretically mitigate Iran's policy, driven by its quest for regional hegemony, of subverting United States allies and interests. The more that relations between the United States, Europe and Iran improve, the less motivation Tehran will have to carry out research into weaponization and to turn nuclear-deterrent production capabilities into nuclear weapons. Alternatively, the combination of a continuous Western containment policy and weak international sanctions on Iran would merely benefit China's and Russia's growing economies while failing to curb Iran's nuclear effort.
Critics of engagement may rightfully argue that a long process of engagement with Iran would not necessarily lead this "rogue state" to fully comply with nonproliferation treaties and regimes. Moreover, the acceptance and implementation of the aforementioned suggestions would undermine the NPT, as they ostensibly reward a country that violated the treaty. However, the NPT is not a sacred cow, but a tool designed to prevent nuclear proliferation. The failure of Washington and Europe to enforce the treaty in Iran means that new and innovative methods are required to address nuclear proliferation in that country. In the absence of favorable systemic conditions, bidding for more time in a futile effort to coerce Iran into ending its quest for nuclear-deterrent production capabilities may result in increasing the level of political tension in the Middle East and in a much larger nuclear-proliferation problem in the future. Thus, engagement, although not without risks, offers more favorable prospects.
1 Parisa Hafezi and Fredrik Dahl, "Iran, Six Powers Agree to Four-Month Extension of Nuclear Talks: Envoys," Reuters, July 18, 2014, http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/07/18/us-iran-nuclear-idUSKBN0FN270….
2 "Iran Nuclear Deal: Joint Plan of Action — Full Document," Guardian, November 24, 2013, http://www.theguardian.com/world/interactive/2013/nov/24/iran-nuclear-d….
3 Michael Ledeen, "The Big Deal on the Road to War," November 24, 2013, http://pjmedia.com/michaelledeen/2013/11/24/the-big-deal-on-the-road-to…; and John P. Hannah, "Fear and Loathing in the Kingdom," Foreign Policy, November 29, 2013, http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2013/11/29/iran_saudi_arabia_nucl….
4 Kenneth Katzman, "Iraq: Politics, Elections, and Benchmarks," Congressional Research Service, July 1, 2010, http://fpc.state.gov/documents/organization/145562.pdf; and Kenneth Katzman, "Iran: U.S. Concerns and Policy Responses," Congressional Research Service, July 31, 2006, 22, http://www.parstimes.com/history/crs_july_06.pdf.
5 Siavosh Ghazi, "Iran's Supreme Leader Reveals Demands in Nuclear Talks," AFP, July 8, 2014, http://news.yahoo.com/nuclear-team-defend-irans-rights-khamenei-1940203…; David Sanger, "Iran Outlines Nuclear Deal; Accepts Limit," New York Times, July 14, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/15/world/middleeast/iran-outlines-nuclea…; and "Huge U.S.-Iran Gap on Nukes as Target Date Nears," AP, June 17, 2014, http://www.cbsnews.com/news/huge-america-iran-gap-on-nukes-as-target-da….
6 Ibid.; and "Talks Resume Over Iran Nuclear Deal – Here Are the Major Sticking Points," Reuters, July 3, 2014, http://www.newsweek.com/talks-resume-over-iran-nuclear-deal-here-are-ma….
7 Henry Kissinger, Years of Upheaval (Weidenfeld and Nicolson and Michael Joseph, 1982), 524.
8 See documents 5a, 9a, 9b, 17, 18a, 21, 23b, 31a, 31b and 32a, in William Burr, ed., National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 268, January 13, 2009, accessed May 15, 2014, http://www2.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/nukevault/ebb268/index.htm.
9 "Strategic Options for Iran: Balancing Pressure with Diplomacy," The Iran Project, April 17, 2013, http://www.scribd.com/doc/136389836/Strategic-Options-for-Iran-Balancin….
10 Michael Ledeen, "A Third Way to Address the Iranian Threat," Wall Street Journal, April 16, 2013, http://online.wsj.com/article/SB100014241278873235010045783891502055426…; and Michael Ledeen, "Faster, Please! The Road to Damascus Starts in Tehran," PJ Media, August 25, 2013, http://pjmedia.com/michaelledeen/2013/08/25/the-road-to-damascus-starts….
11 John P. Hannah, "Cripple Iran to Save it," Los Angeles Times, October 15, 2009, http://articles.latimes.com/2009/oct/15/opinion/oe-hannah15; and John P. Hannah, "Iranian Election Reflections (Part 3)," Foreign Policy, July 9, 2013, http://shadow.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2013/07/09/election_reflections_p….
12 Ledeen, "Faster, Please!"
13 Ted Galen Carpenter and Jessica Ashooh, "Contra Iran: A View to a Coup?" National Interest, 2007, no. 88: 3, http://object.cato.org/sites/cato.org/files/articles/carpenter_contra-i…; and "Kristol Podcast: 2013 and the Discrediting of Liberalism," Weekly Standard, December 31, 2013, http://www.weeklystandard.com/print/blogs/kristol-podcast-2013-and-disc….
14 Hannah, "Cripple Iran to Save it."
15 Michael Ledeen, "The Nuclear Axis of Evil: The People Solution," National Review, May 12, 2003, http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/206862/nuclear-axis-evil/michael…; see also Robert Kagan, "It's the Regime, Stupid," Washington Post, January 29, 2006, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/01/27/AR20060….
16 Steven Levitsky and Lucan A. Way, "International Linkage and Democratization," Journal of Democracy 16, no. 3 (2005): 21.
17 Samuel P. Huntington, The Third Wave: Democratization in the Late Twentieth Century (University of Oklahoma Press, 1991), 142.
18 Ibid., 151.
19 Levitsky and Way, 21.
20 CIA World Factbook 2010, 307; and CIA World Factbook 2014, https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ir.html.
21"Iran Military Strength," Global Firepower, March 27, 2014, http://www.globalfirepower.com/country-military-strength-detail.asp?cou….
22 William J. Perry, Review of United States Policy toward North Korea: Findings and Recommendations (U.S. State Department, 1999), 3, 7.
23 Levitsky and Way, 21.
25 "Trade Policy Iran," The European Commission, accessed May 7, 2014, http://trade.ec.europa.eu/doclib/docs/2006/september/tradoc_111518.pdf.
26 Peter Baker, "Obama Signs into Law Tighter Sanctions on Iran," New York Times, July 1, 2010, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/02/world/middleeast/02sanctions.html?_r=….
27 Paul Richter, "White House Works to Ease Iran Proposal in Congress," Los Angeles Times, June 11, 2010, http://articles.latimes.com/2010/jun/11/world/la-fg-iran-sanctions-2010…; and "US Congress OKs Sanctions on Iran's Energy Banks," Reuters, June 24, 2010, accessed September 29, 2010, http://af.reuters.com/article/energyOilNews/idAFN2414825120100624?pageN….
28 David Gauvey Herbert, "Could a Gasoline Embargo Bend Tehran?" National Journal, November 2, 2009, http://www.nationaljournal.com/njonline/no_20091027_5502.php.
29 Yitzhak Shichor, "Hobson's Choice: China's Second Worst Option on Iran," China Brief 10, Issue 6 (2010): 13.
30 "EU Tighten Sanctions over Iran Nuclear Programme," BBC News, July 26, 2010, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-10758328.
31 "EU Iran Sanctions: Ministers Adopt Iran Oil Imports Ban," BBC News, January 23, 2012, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-16674660; and "EU Imposes New Sanctions on Iran," BBC News, October 15, 2012, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-19947507.
32 Peter Foster, "U.S. Congress in Urgent Call to ECB to Tighten Sanctions on Iran," Telegraph, February 26, 2013, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/iran/9894143/US-Co….
33 Benoit Faucon and Laurence Norman, "Court Hands EU New Setback on Iran Sanctions," Wall Street Journal," September 6, 2013, http://online.wsj.com/article/SB100014241278873241230045790585208384433….
34 Kenneth Katzman, "Iran Sanctions," Congressional Research Service, June 26, 2014, 22, accessed July 28, 2014, http://fas.org/sgp/crs/mideast/RS20871.pdf.
35 Benoit Faucon and Laurence Norman, "Iran's Oil Exports Peak after Interim Nuclear Deal," Wall Street Jounral, March 14, 2014, http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB100014240527023049149045794385415….
36 Nidhi Verma, "India's Jan-June Iran Oil Imports Climb by a Third – Trade," Reuters, July 23, 2014, http://in.reuters.com/article/2014/07/23/india-iran-oil-idINKBN0FS0TW20….
37 "EU Ready to Resume Business with Iran on Jan 20," New Straits Times, March 6, 2014, http://www2.nst.com.my/world/eu-ready-to-resume-business-with-iran-on-j….
38 "S. 1881: Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2013," 113th Congress, 2013-2015, text as of December 20, 2013 (Placed on Calendar in the Senate), accessed August 14, 2014, https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/113/s1881/text.
39 Levitsky and Way, 21-22.
40 David Gauvey Herbert, "Could a Gasoline Embargo Bend Tehran?"
41 "China Passes EU in Trade with Iran," UPI, February 9, 2010, http://www.upi.com/Science_News/Resource-Wars/2010/02/09/China-passes-E….
42 "Trade between Iran, China Dives 18% after Sanctions: Report," AFP, March 4, 2013, http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130304/trade-between-iran-c…; and "Trade Policy-Iran," European Commission, accessed May 12, 2014, http://ec.europa.eu/trade/policy/countries-and-regions/countries/iran/.
43 Robert O. Freedman, "Russia, Iran, and the Nuclear Question: The Putin Record," Jerusalem Viewpoints (Jerusalem Centre for Public Affairs, no. 554, July 2, 2006), 3.
44 "Iran, Russia Sign Energy Co-op Agreement," Xinhua, July 14, 2010, http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2008-07/14/content_8543837.htm.
45 Vladislav Savin and Cherng-Shin Ouyang, "Analysis of Post-Soviet Central Asia's Oil & Gas Pipeline Issues," Geopolitics, December 25, 2013, http://www.geopolitika.ru/en/article/analysis-post-soviet-central-asias….
46 "Factbox — Russia's Relations With Iran," Reuters, May 26, 2010, http://www.reuters.com/article/2010/05/26/iran-nuclear-ahmadinejad-idUS….
47 Quoted in Ralph E. Winnie, Jr., "Iran: Russia's Strategic New Client," Russia beyond the Headlines, March 24, 2010, http://rbth.ru/articles/2010/03/24/240310_iran.html.
48 Jonathan Saul and Parisa Hafezi, "Iran, Russia Working to Seal $20 Billion Oil-for-Goods deal: Sources," Reuters, April 2, 2014, http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/04/02/us-iran-russia-oil-idUSBREA31…; and "Iran's Talks on Oil Barter Deal with Russia Do Not Depend on Vienna Dialogue," ITAR-TASS, July 13, 2014, http://en.itar-tass.com/world/740337.
49 James Burgess, "Iran Boosting Oil Exports in Violation of Agreement," Oilprice.com, May 11, 2014, http://oilprice.com/Latest-Energy-News/World-News/Iran-Boosting-Oil-Exp….
50 "Russia and Iran Set to Strike $10bn Energy Deal," RT, April 28, 2014, http://rt.com/business/155404-russia-iran-energy-deal/.
51 Pepe Escobar, "China Plays Pipelineistan," Asia Times, December 24, 2009, http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Central_Asia/KL24Ag07.html.
52 "U.S. Embassy Cables: Gates Warns of War with Iran," Guardian, November 28, 2010, paragraph 7, http://www.theguardian.com/world/us-embassy-cables-documents/248624?int….
53 Escobar, "China Plays Pipelineistan."
54 Country Analysis: Angola, Kazakhstan, Venezuela, Sudan and South Sudan, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait, Iran and China, U.S. Energy Information Administration, accessed May 13, 2013, http://www.eia.gov/countries/.
56 Verma, "India's Jan-June Iran Oil Imports Climb by a Third – Trade."
57 Escobar, "China Plays Pipelineistan"; Syed Fazl-e-Haider, "Pakistan Defiant on Iran Gas Pipeline," Asia Times, February 9, 2012, http://www.atimes.com/atimes/South_Asia/NB09Df02.html; and "Iran-Pakistan Gas Pipeline Could Be Extended to China," Times of India, August 24, 2013, http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/business/international-business/Iran….
58 Pepe Escobar, "Iraq's Oil Auction Hits the Jackpot," Asia Times, December 16, 2009, http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/KL16Ak02.html.
59 Country Analysis: Iraq and China, U.S. Energy Information Administration, accessed May 13, 2013, http://www.eia.gov/countries/.
60 Shichor, 13.
61 "U.S. Embassy Cables: China Tells North Korea to Act Nice," Guardian, November 29, 2010, paragraph 7, http://www.theguardian.com/world/us-embassy-cables-documents/239384?int….
62 "Trade in Goods with Russia," United States Census Bureau, accessed May 12, 2014, http://www.census.gov/foreign-trade/balance/c4621.html.
63 Nikolay Kozhanov, "Russia's Policy on Iran's Nuclear Program," The Washington Institute For Near East Policy, April 19, 2012, http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/view/russias-positio….
64 Tania Branigan and Paul Harris, "China Fumes at U.S. Arms Sale to Taiwan," Guardian, January 30, 2010, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2010/jan/30/china-reaction-us-arms-sal….
65 Julian Borger and Ewen MacAskill, "China Supports Barack Obama's Call for New Iran Sanctions," Guardian, March 31, 2010, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2010/mar/31/china-supports-obama-iran-….
66 Shichor, 14.
67 "U.S. Embassy Cables: China Tells North Korea to Act Nice," Guardian, November 29, 2010, paragraph 8.
68 Neil MacFarquhar, "U.N. Approves New Sanctions to Deter Iran," New York Times, June 9, 2010, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/10/world/middleeast/10sanctions.html; and "Russia's Nuclear Help to Iran Stirs Questions about Its 'Improved' Relations with U.S.," Fox News, August 14, 2010, http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2010/08/14/russias-nuclear-help-iran-st….
69 Levitsky and Way, 21.
70 Ibid., 22.
71 Ibid., 24.
72 Michael McFaul, "Iran's Peculiar Election: Chinese Dreams, Persian Realities," Journal of Democracy 16, no. 4 (2005):75-76.
73 Levitsky and Way, 33.
74 For a detailed account of Iran's encounters with the West, see David Menashri, 'Iran bein 'Islam Lema'arav [Iran Between Islam and the West, in Hebrew] (Tel Aviv: Israeli Ministry of Defense, 1996).
75 Ibid., 88-115, 129-130.
76 In 1982, the average number of births per woman stood at 6.5, and by 1990 it had dropped to 4.8. Since then, however, the average has continued to plummet, reaching 1.7 in 2009. See "World Development Indicators," World Bank, accessed May 15, 2014, http://www.google.com/publicdata/explore?ds=wb-wdi&met=sp_dyn_tfrt_in&i….
77 Menashri, 144-156.
78 Ali Afshari and Graham H. Underwood, "The Green Wave," Journal of Democracy 20, no. 4 (2009): 6.
79 Ibid., 8, 10.
80 Abbas Milani, "Cracks in the Regime," Journal of Democracy 20, no. 4 (2009):15.
81 Ibid., 12.
82 Larry A. Niksch, "North Korea's Nuclear Weapons Program," Congressional Research Service, April 7, 2006, 5-6, http://fpc.state.gov/documents/organization/64417.pdf.
83 Mark Fitzpatrick, The Iranian Nuclear Crisis: Avoiding Worst-Case Outcomes (Routledge, 2008), 24-25.
84 "Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement and Relevant Provisions of Security Council Resolutions in the Islamic Republic of Iran," IAEA, GOV/2013/56, November 14, 2013.
85 "Status of Iran's Nuclear Programme in Relation to the Joint Plan of Action," IAEA, GOV/INF/2014/16, July 20, 2014.
86 Sanger, "Iran Outlines Nuclear Deal; Accepts Limit."
87 In the past, Washington conditioned such a dialogue on the suspension of Iran's uranium enrichment activities: see Mark Fitzpatrick, "Is Iran's Nuclear Capability Inevitable?" in Patrick M. Cronin, ed., Double Trouble: Iran and North Korea as Challenges to International Security (Praeger Security International, 2008), 31.