Iranian authorities are masters at the “good cop, bad cop” strategy, a method of alternating threats and friendly gestures to fool the West into thinking that there is a moderate section in the Islamic Republic.
However, as the Iranian coalition opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) has repeatedly pointed out, this is not true and both sides are pursuing the same objective: appeasement.
The Iranian government would have the West believe that the “reformist” President Hassan Rouhani and his aides are the good cops, who want a true democracy but need concessions from the West to stop the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), or bad cops, from getting too angry and instituting a dictatorship. This false distinction encourages the West to appease the ayatollahs, even in the face of malign actions, because the West must fear it getting worse.
“We have seen this, for instance, in conciliatory nuclear agreements like the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which provided the entire regime with relief from effective economic sanctions in order to forestall the threat of nuclear weapons development,” the NCRI wrote.
“Iran didn’t have to offer much in order to secure that outcome. The good cop just had to promise that he would hold back the bad cop from unleashing the most extreme punishment imaginable,” the Iranian opposition added.
There can’t be many more effective threats than possible nuclear annihilation, but even smaller threats are remarkably effective, such as Iran’s long and troubling history of hostage-taking, which was resurrected last week when the IRGC seized a South Korean tanker in the Strait of Hormuz.
They said that ship was illegally polluting Iranian waters, but these unsubstantiated claims were rejected by the ship’s owner and Iran’s state-run media then admitted that this was designed to pressure South Korean negotiators over the $7 billion in Iranian oil revenues that are frozen under U.S. sanctions.
Of course, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, citing judicial independence, has tried to say that he has no control over this and that this is a matter for the courts, but that is not true.
The Judiciary is not independent and there is no real distinction between the beliefs and goals of the government and the IRGC, but Zarif needs the West to believe that there is so that he can keep negotiating with them, without surrendering the IRGC’s leverage, and secure what the government wants.
“That euphemistic narrative must be rejected by the international community, regardless of whether South Korea ultimately agrees to release the seven billion dollars,” the NCRI stated.
“Toward that end, Western policymakers and the media could strike a significant blow against the Iranian “good cop, bad cop” routine by showing the evidence of collaboration between the two sides of that routine,” the statement added.