Dialogue, a Good Means for Confidence Building
1 October 2013
After a few weeks of speculations and assumptions, finally and shortly before Iran's President Dr. Rouhani leaves New York, in a phone call made by President Barack Obama, the two heads of States talked for twenty minutes. Notwithstanding gossips and wide-ranging expectations, the two leaders did not want or they could not talk tete- a-tete at the sidelines of UN General Assembly sessions or in any other events. This phone conversations, however, was in part so unexpected and surprising that a high ranking Iranian statesman called it a "diplomatic coup" and so the episode was on the air swiftly . Probably some did expect that face to face talks of the two leaders would have been much more effective, being conducive to more concrete results. However, it is all the same, because talking is talking, having its good outcomes, and this phone conversation can be a decent opening for future developments and acts. Moreover, with the existing highly sophisticated advanced communication system, there is no difference between face to face and phone conversations. Now aside from diplomatic niceties, we need to contemplate on the essential points the two presidents did cover. Foremost, one does not need to lose sight of this fact that in a twenty minutes conversation, some part of which was given to exchanging compliments, we cannot and should not expect that the two sides could have found solution to even minor issues. President Obama is quite aware of this; and given his extensive experience as well as prudence, President Rouhani is also pretty cunning to act seriously. There is no doubt that he is not in the rush and certainly passing fervor has nothing to do with the decisions he makes.
This conversation, although brief and short, is a tremendous beginning and we need to wait and see what developments occur over the months and year to come.
There is, however, an undeniable fact in molding up the future developments. In his short report to the people and the media of U.S., President Obama bluntly pointed to the challenges ahead and was quite realistic saying that "by no means the success of these efforts is assured."He, however, reiterated that great efforts are needed to make achievements in what has been started. So far so good. Yet the United States, in pursuing the policy it has adopted, needs to admit some facts, and hopefully, unlike the past ,will take a transparent approach and of course, to some extent, honest strategy.
First, Washington should have recognized now that as a great and important influential state in the region, Iran's policies have deep implications in the developments of the Middle East. No compromise or interaction is viable unless Iran role is considered. It is therefore unrealistic to deny Iran's status in the political trends of this critical region. Over the past three decades of the history of Middle East political developments, this has been thoroughly attested.
The US President is quite aware of the challenges on the way to relations with Iran; so in his brief statement to the press he was cautious, saying "that three decades of deep suspicion running between the two countries and this suspicion would not be removed right away ". We have not to lose sight of the fact that the United States policies of the past accounts for the great part of this distrust. It is worthy to note that just when President Obama was on phone conversation with Dr. Rouhani, a number of US Congressmen were trying hard to draft a bill for new sanctions on Iran. Can Obama administration deal with these congressmen who have the majority in US Congress? To get the budget and other economic bills passed, President Obama needs their votes. Will not the motion of this hard-line groups adversely affect the new foreign policy US President has made? Does this not further heighten the distrust edifice between Iran and US?
Third, the US Administration and American statesmen in either party have probably found out that zero sum policy is over. Because the history of recent decades has discernibly shown that a certain state cannot force another to do what it decides, as only the former is stronger in terms of military muscle and economic power than the latter. In short term it may be feasible; in the long run, however, that may backfire and even deal a great blow to the apparently stronger state.
Fourth, given the international realities, it now must be an obvious and tangible fact in the United States that rigor emotions, particularly in politics which is the characteristics of hardliners, no longer work out. Undoubtedly, "flexibility" and "softness' will definitely advance the progress to the objectives.
Through a scientific analysis, Dr.Rose Mc Dermott in her prized book "Politics Psychology in International Relations" proves that aside from power and wealth of either party in a political dispute, it is merely "flexibility" that helps advancing political negotiations."Inflexibility" by any party in a dispute bears nothing but great damage to either side.
In this political challenge, Islamic Republic of Iran is one party that attentively watching and monitoring the developments. So the other side needs to focus on points Iran concerns.
First, like any country and before engaging in any dialogue or interaction with the Western countries, Iran's top priority is absolutely serving her national interests within international laws. Naturally it is an undeniable accepted principle.
Second, by proposing "heroic flexibility", the Islamic Republic of Iran has declared that abiding by its principle, including her national interests, she is quite prepared to interact and dialogue with the world. Time and again in many occasions and under several circumstances, Iranian Government has reaffirmed this position and has proved this both in words and deeds. Iran will emphatically safeguard this standing.
Ever since Islamic Revolution, and all through the past three decades, Iranian leadership time and again has reaffirmed that Iranian Government would like to have interaction and good relations based on mutual respect and national interests with all countries of the world. But there is an exception for certain countries with which Islamic Republic of Iran, for well known reasons, will not either react or having any relations with. This is just in line with the policy of heroic flexibility Iran has adopted now more than thirty years.
Iran has always sought after peace and stability in all parts of the world and in particular in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf and is pretty interested having good and cordial relations with its neighboring countries. Iran is seeking for stability and peace because it believes thus this country is able to grow economically and eventually the people of this land will be better off, since it is their inviolable right. Through the past two century or so Iran has not invaded any country, having no expansionist ambitions for her neighbors. As for the eight years war, another country invaded Iran, and it has no choice but to defend its territorial integrity.
Now a new development is getting underway in this sensitive region. Undoubtedly dialogue and talks are the best and shortest way to achieve the set objectives. Since by dialogue, though may be prolong and tiresome, it works out any misunderstanding and uncertainties any country that may have to another. Moreover it'll put forth new ways and means for more understanding and dialogue. Certainly, given the aforesaid facts a new stage has opened for both Islamic Republic of Iran and the United States. This principle is not definitely an exception as far as they are concerned.
The author is a retired career diplomat and senior international relations expert.