By Seyed Hossein Mousavian*
Former deputy head of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council for foreign policy has recently taken part in a meeting of American elites in the northeastern state of Maine to discuss reasons behind the failure of the United States diplomacy toward Iran during the past 35 years.
The meeting was organized by Mid-Coast Forum on Foreign Relations and was attended by a large group of American elites.
During his speech, Mousavian mentioned the following reasons as the main factors behind the failure of diplomatic efforts taken by Washington to improve ties with Tehran:
1. US strategy of only trusting allies: The basis of the US strategy in the Middle East is the notion that countries in this region are either with the United States or against it. Therefore, any country that is not a US ally, or in better words, is not under the influence of the United States, is considered enemy and should be done away with. The past regime of Iran was an ally of the United States and was toppled through the Islamic Revolution. Since that time, the United States adopted a hostile approach to Iran, which it has continued up to the present time. This strategy has been wrong from the beginning because most regional allies of the United States have been either toppled during the past few years, or their governments are in an unstable and shaky position.
2. Israel, a priority for US policy in Middle East: The interests of Israel form the main axis around which the United States’ foreign policy in the Middle East pivots. This issue has made Iranians believe that Washington prefers the interests of Tel Aviv even over its own interests. The recent move by the US Congress to invite the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to make a speech despite strong opposition from the US President Barack Obama clearly proved that in the eyes of most members of the US Congress, the prime minister of Israel is more respected, reliable, and trustworthy than their own president.
3. Strategy of pressure and threat: This strategy has been an unwavering component of the United States treatment of Iran during the past 35 years. The White House and the US Congress have constantly believed that they can topple the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran through pressure or threat, or at least, weaken it or make it isolated. Today, however, following 35 years of pressure and threat, they have reached a different conclusion and have come to grips with the reality of an Iran which is more powerful, more stable, and more influential than any time before.
4. Using language of humiliation and insult: Positions taken on and the language used to address Iran by the majority of American politicians has been one of humiliation and insult. Using such labels against the Islamic Republic as sponsor of “state terrorism,” “rogue state,” or part of the “axis of evil,” are major instances attesting to the fact that the United States has been always talking to Iran using a language of insult and humiliation. Washington has apparently forgotten that Iranians are a nation with their own civilization and culture, which dates backed several thousands of years. Therefore, they are a proud nation and cannot tolerate this sort of humiliating discourse.
5. Inattention to rules of international law: Although the United States claims to be an advocate of the norms of international law, in practice, it doesn’t abide by those norms. A salient example of this can be seen during the ongoing nuclear talks with Iran in which, Iran has been insisting on an agreement within the framework of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), while the United States has been making demands which are far beyond the limits of the NPT.
6. Focus on differences: Iran and the United States have both differences and important common interests. The diplomatic approach taken by Washington toward Tehran during the past 35 years has been putting the highest emphasis on those differences, while it would have been better for the United States to work with Iran on common interests while engaging in dialogue on points of difference.
7. Mutual distrust: Washington always believes that it has every right not to trust Tehran and has been raising claims against Iran. At the same time, that distrust has been mutual and Iran has had its own legitimate and documented reasons why it should not trust the United States. Therefore, to overcome this distrust, both countries should strive to understand this reality and take reciprocal steps to build trust.
*Ambassador Seyed Hossein Mousavian is a research scholar at Princeton University and a former spokesman for Iran’s nuclear negotiations. His latest book, Iran and the United States: An Insider’s view on the Failed Past and the Road to Peace, was published in May.