To avoid war with Iran, Obama must change his tone and strike a deal
Israel warns time is running out to stop Iran's nuclear program. If the US wants to avoid military strikes on Iran, it must stop talking out of both sides of its mouth – offering carrots and sticks. As new talks are planned, its policy must instead acknowledge Iran's culture and political realities.
If the US wants to avoid military strikes on Iran and still wants a diplomatic settlement for the nuclear dispute with the Islamic Republic, Washington must stop talking out of both sides of its mouth.Skip to next paragraph
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As world powers move toward new talks with Iran, the US must abandon its delusion that the dual track approach – offering simultaneous carrots and sticks – will work with Tehran. It must instead adopt a more pragmatic approach that is sensitive to both the Iranian cultural sentiments and political realities. In particular, the US must appreciate the fact that in Iran, right or wrong, national pride is more important than national interest.
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Leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran have frequently condemned the tone of American officials as disrespectful and derogatory. They are particularly annoyed by the terms “carrot and stick” as they are applied to the “donkey” in Iran. This sense of national pride is reinforced by the Iranian Islamic culture of resistance to outside pressure.
President Obama’s televised message to Iran in 2009 called for a “new beginning,” and such a fresh start could break the deadlock if it were not accompanied by simultaneous accusations of “terror.” Tehran viewed the message as displaying the carrot and stick policy. The Supreme Leader Khamanei immediately attacked Mr. Obama saying, “It is not understandable that Obama congratulates the Iranian new year, but, at the same time, accuses Iran of supporting terrorism and efforts to gain access to nuclear weapons.” Mr. Khamanei has reminded the West, that Iran “hates threat and enticement.”
Mistrust plays a powerful role in the US-Iran conflict. It is no wonder that Iranian hardliners hold that once Tehran gives in to Washington’s pressures and halts its nuclear program, the US would then use issues such as human rights and terrorism to impose even more draconian sanctions. Islamic leaders’ perceive that a US victory on the nuclear issue could boost US confidence and encourage it to aggressively use sanctions to bring about regime change.
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