Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Negotiating with Iran

Our good friend, Reza Marashi, got published somewhere people actually read. His article with Trita Parsi on 5 tips to make the next round of US-Iran negotiations better then the last recently published in Foreign Policy magazine is an interesting and quick read.

While I defer to Reza on just about everything Iran, I have some thoughts to share (that's what the blog is for after all):
1. Tip #3 is the biggest tip of all in my opinion. There was a study put out by the RAND Corporation last year titled Mullahs, Guards, and Banyards. If you want to have the first clue about Iran power dynamics, it's a must read. It also really reinforces Tip #3. There are so many stakeholders in Iran. You could draw a Venn diagram, but in the end it would look like a bad acid trip with all the overlapping circles. I think it's important for the U.S. to remember that there are people in position of power in Iran interested in working with us and while we can't cater to them exclusively, it's an opportunity.

2. Could we get a corresponding article about what Iran can do to make the negotiations productive? That's like saying "Thank you for the apples, but how about some damn oranges!" but I had this nagging feeling reading the tips that the U.S. had to do X, Y, and Z and Iran did not. Thirty years of enmity will cause that kind of reaction.

3. Let's accept we were wrong to support the Shah the way we did. Let's maybe even apologize. Guys, as a nation we messed up in Iran. We messed up in a lot of nations during the Cold War, but the reaction in Iran was perhaps the most stark and the relationship sense likely the worst. It is not a sign of weakness to apologize. It's a sign of humanity and a dignified gesture (since we can't undo what happened) befitting a superpower. Our arrogance and own ignorance/denial of history make us look childish.

One final thought: It's all connected. The Islamic revolution of 1979, the overthrow (and subsequent hanging) of Bhutto by Zia al-Haq, the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan, and America's impotence in the entire region is all connected. We spent many decades messing about in the affairs of Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, and I don't think we could be considered a net positive. Negotiating with Iran, earnestly, patiently, and in anything resembling good faith could be the first step in trying to reverse the reviled perception of the U.S. in the region.

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