On Tuesday, June 4, 2013, Dr. Hossein Mousavian, Research Scholar at Woodrow Wilson School of Public Affairs, spoke on the topic, “The Shared Interests of the U.S. and the Islamic Republic of Iran”. The intent in this event was to emphasize shared interests. Current sanctions and focus on nuclear issues distracts from and obscures shared interests. Pursuit of shared interests would reduce hostilities in the region.
Here is a brief summary of Dr. Mousavian’s presentation.
Background: The 157 years of U.S.-Iranian relations can be divided into three periods:
- Good relations from 1800 till 1953 when Kermit Roosevelt led a CIA coup against democratically elected Mohammad Mossaddegh
- Domination from 1953-1979 through the Shah
Up to 1953, the U.S. made a strong American contribution to Iran’s development. In 1879, for example the U.S. established the College of Medicine in Tehran.
Today there is mutual distrust caused by a long series of incidents:
- The U.S. provided safe haven for the Shah after he was overthrown. In response, Iranian students overtook the American Embassy.
- The U.S. armed Iraq against Iran in the 10 year Iraq-Iran war, 1979-1987. A million Iranians were killed in that war and Americans knew that Iraq used chemical weapons against Iran. People in Iran are still dying from chemical effects of that war.
- Iran has made a number of overtures toward negotiation which have been rejected by the U.S., believing that the Iranian overtures are not made in good faith.
Since 1979 U. S. engagement has focused on:
- Opposition to uranium enrichment
- Various ways of seeking regime change in Iran
- Two-track Approach: offering incentives while pressuring with sanctions — that only amounts to one thing: pressure
Alternative Paths for the U.S.:
- A policy of respect for Iran. There is a great cultural chasm between the east and the west. The language of respect in Iran is as important as what is done or spoken.
- Pursue common interests between the two countries, as exemplified below:
- Both presently are supporting the same government parties in Iraq and Afghanistan
- Both have signed the nuclear nonproliferation treaty
- Both oppose gun trafficking out of Afghanistan
- There could be much more educational and technical exchange between the two countries. Presently ninety per cent of the Iranian’s applying for visas to the U.S. are denied.
- All governments would be served by stabilizing measures in the region.
- Iran and the U.S. are signatories to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty
- Peaceful trade in the Persian Gulf and the Middle East
Observation: In Syria today, the tables are turned. Iran is supporting a secular regime, whereas Iran is usually the more religious. The U.S. is supporting religious Sunni elements against the more secular Assad.
Summary: Dr. Mousavian advocates sustained, direct and comprehensive negotiations.
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The following statement was adopted by the Board of Lancaster Interchurch Peace Witness on April 20, 2013 (in preparation for the above event):
LIPW, with Friends Committee on National Legislation, is deeply concerned over continued hostilities against the Islamic Republic of Iran. In support of the April 17, 2013, statement by the Panel of Experts on Iran, chaired by Ambassador Thomas Pickering, we urge U.S. policymakers, in concert with other nations, to press for sustained, direct and comprehensive negotiations with Iran in order to end hostilities and build a viable peace in the region for the security of all.
The present course of U.S. action policy, beholden to Israel’s leadership and the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) is not in the interests of the U.S., Israel or the wider Middle East-Persian Gulf region.
We believe it is possible to build on the shared interests of the U. S. and Iran, rather than trying to isolate Iran or focusing exclusively on nuclear issues.
Summary by Urbane Peachey