Former Pentagon Analyst: As in Past, Iran Seeking to Humiliate US With Accusations of Nuclear Deal Violations

By Barney Breen-Portnoy

Algemeiner

August 22, 2016

 

Recent accusations by top Iranian officials that the US has violated last year’s nuclear agreement merely represent a continuation of a longstanding Iranian policy of “humiliating” the US, a Middle East expert and former Pentagon analyst told The Algemeiner on Monday.

Harold Rhode, an expert on Islamic culture who worked for the Pentagon for 28 years, was referring to the latest Iranian claims that America is not abiding by the terms of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), reported by Iranian regime-aligned news agency Tasnim on Sunday.

According to the report, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, an adviser to the speaker of the Iranian parliament, said, “Iran proved its honesty to everyone, but the US reneged (on the agreement) as usual and like (it did) in the past.”

Last month, as The Algemeiner reported, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani threatened that Iran would withdraw from the JCPOA if the US did not live up to its commitments.

“Without understanding Iranian culture, it is impossible to understand what is going on,” Rhode said. “Nothing is in and of itself. The way negotiations work among Iranians is that an agreement as we understand it means nothing. It is nothing more than a step along the way to getting what they want.”

Rhode continued: “In the Middle East, you never take responsibility for anything yourself; you always push whatever it is onto somebody else. You blame others. And the problem is that both President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry, I don’t know whether willfully or unwillfully, refuse to understand Iran in the Iranian context. And the Iranian context is that the agreement means nothing, except as a way to shame America into doing what Iran wants, which is to push further and further.”

Rhode, who studied at a university in the northeastern Iranian city of Mashhad in the late 1970s and speaks Farsi, pointed to the 1979 taking of US diplomats in Tehran hostage for 444 days as a past example of this behavior.

“From an Iranian cultural point of view, at all times there is a balance — ‘Are you giving it or are you getting it?’ And this has nothing to do with women,” Rhode said. “It’s simply domination; it’s simply power. That is what happened with the hostage crisis under Jimmy Carter.”

According to Rhode, the Iranian students who took over the US Embassy in Tehran in November 1979 at first “figured they could get something small out of America.” But, he noted, when America “gave in and tried to negotiate with the new regime over the hostages, the Iranians said, ‘Hey, we’ve got a good thing going,’ so they kept pushing more and more and humiliated America. And each time America gave in, the humiliation got stronger. Throughout the Middle East, it showed that America was weak and either unwilling or unable to do what was necessary to stop the whole thing.”

The fact that the American hostages were released on the very day that Ronald Reagan was sworn in as president in January 1981 was very significant, Rhode said.

“When Reagan became president — and this has something to do with Donald Trump as well — the Iranians were petrified he’d nuke them,” Rhode said. “The exact moment the plane carrying the hostages home left Iranian airspace was when Reagan raised his hand to take the oath of office. Now the question is why. Because the Iranians were afraid of Reagan.”

Turning to the handling of the Iran nuclear issue by the current administration in Washington, Rhode said, “When you don’t want to learn from what has happened in the past, the saying is, ‘Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.’ For Obama and Kerry, the nuclear agreement is exactly in that context. The Iranian leadership is playing them, constantly humiliating them.”

Rhode, whose detailed analysis of Iranian negotiating behavior for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs can be found here, said a proper American approach to Iran would entail ensuring that “the Iranians understand it is not in their interest” to defy the United States.

“In the Middle East, there is no such thing as public opinion; there is survival. I saw how people in Iran went overnight from being pro-Shah to pro-Khomeini,” he said, referring to the Islamic Revolution that ousted Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi and ushered in the reign of the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

Rhode concluded: “We’re in a situation today in which it’s not just the Islamic world, but the entire world, which is seeing America as a paper tiger. Two things are always necessary in a power relationship — the ability and the willingness to impose your will. Lacking both, it’s as if you have no power and no ability. You could be the strongest country in the world, but if you have no will, it’s as if you have no power. The Iranians know that Obama has no will, and therefore they can say and do whatever they want.”