It is interesting to notice that how closely Presidential campaigns in the States were followed by international audience. In Iran many kept track of primary elections and then the combat between Barak Obama, President Elect, and Senator McCain with enthusiasm. For them it was unbelievable to see an African American with a Kenyan father on the road to the White House.
In the days leading to the election Iranians enjoyed the competition while many officials followed the old line that USA foreign policy is independent from the ruling party. This statement neither subdued hopes nor reduced expectations that an Obama presidency would be better for Iranian people. Many believe that even a change of tone in Washington would cool down the tensions and would facilitate diplomatic approach and negotiations.
Iran-USA relations always have been a tricky process filled by political minefield. Both sides have to be careful of domestic reactions and interest groups while planning to approach each other. The prevailing assumption is that Iranian politicians believe that success in opening political relationship with the States would result in an immense increase in one's prestige and political influence. Thus many political groups would interfere in the process or would interrupt it to deny their rivals the credit not because they oppose the notion itself.
This argument neglects the fact that often radicals of both sides enjoy a best response situation. They provide each other with incentives, motives and reasons to remain radical. It also puts too much weight on the political gains of such a relationship. Many politicians on both sides have gained more opposing the other side than advocating diplomatic relations. Why this time could be different? Would it be different simply because of the “change” agenda?
Although some say “Change” has created expectations, there is little doubt that realpolitik deals with incentives, gains and strategies. From this point of view both countries are in a position to gain from a negotiation. If we assume that new administration will seek a stronger Iraqi government and move toward a reduced presence in Iraq then Iran’s assistance would be of value. Should it be secured it will result in a more stable Iraq and facilitate regaining stability in Iraq. Thus requiring it might create positive gains.
On the other hand if the price of oil continues to decline then Iranian government might appreciate lifting the sanctions and access to international banking system. It also might consider it as a positive gesture to see the regime change is not part of the agenda in Washington.
President-elect’s victory was welcome by many social groups in Iran, including youth, business community, women and students. There are several ways that the new administration can show them good faith: increasing cultural and academic exchanges, allowing Iranian private airlines access to American aircrafts and parts for their purely civilian purposes that would reduce the fatality rate of air travel in Iran, and exploring common business interests; for too long both sides have been focused on oil industry however there are other fields that both sides can collaborate. Doing so would increase the popular demand for relations with the States and politicians can seek diplomatic solutions without appearing to compromise their standards.