He should keep up his promise
Two renowned Iranian scholars, Mousavian and Ali Shabani say that for thousands of years, Persian culture has been distinguished by customs that revolve around honor and esteem.
Preserving one’s saving face is tantamount to maintaining one’s dignity. There almost no instances in modern Iranian history when self- interest has trumped saving face. The West has poorly understood these concepts.
This was particularly true under president, George Bush, who rewarded Iran’s tacit acceptance of the American invasion of Afghanistan by labeling Iran a member of an ‘axis of evil’. Following the 2003 allied invasion of Iraq, the Swiss ambassador to Iran reached out to Washington with an unofficial outline for a ‘grand bargain’ with Tehran that would cover everything from Iran’s nuclear program to its support for militant groups in the region.
Despite this bold step, Iran was left out in the cold. Vice president, Dick Cheney is said to have dismissed the initiative, reportedly asserting that ‘we don’t talk to evil’.
The pattern of missed opportunities has persisted for more than three decades now. The result is that that Barack Obama is the sixth consecutive president who has been led to view Iran as a threat rather than an opportunity. It is time for America to exit this vicious cycle and disregard irrational voices intent on sabotaging efforts to reach and understanding. When Obama took office in 2009, he promised a real dialogue with Iran. Many in Tehran are still waiting for him to deliver on that promise.
In the coming months, Iran is expected to again engage with the so-called P5+1 (USA, Russia, China, Britain and France along with Germany). Obama and his team, including his chief Iran negotiator, Under Secretary of State, Wendy Sherman, should reflect on the meaning of self-interest and saving face.
Understanding the Iranian mentality is key to grasping why the Iranians won’t put expediency above dignity. The only way to stop the dispute over Iran’s nuclear program from spinning out of control is to offer Iran a face saving way out. The ‘Iraq-style’ long years of crippling sanction on Iran will not work. It is the Iranian public that will suffer like what happened to Iraqis under Saddam and not the Iranian government. The US cannot miss the opportunity this time.
Obama, please keep up your promise!
- Asian Tribune -