Iran and America Can and Should be Friendly

James Edmonds | Staff Writer

As soon as you read the title, it’s likely you rolled your eyes. That’s pretty typical of the attitude Americans take toward Iran. Iranians have that same attitude. The idea behind the attitude is that America and Iran are polar opposites. We are enemies with a mutual agreement to always think the worst of the other. We’ve agreed to a mutual lack of trust, and it’s an agreement that has lasted over 30 years now.

In an interview on Jon Stewart’s “The Daily Show” March 8, Trita Parsi, National Iranian American Council President, touched upon this mutual lack of trust and gave a basic synopsis of the events that have led to the current trough of Iranian-American relations. The full interview can be found here.

According to Parsi, in 2003 Iran sent America (via the Swiss, because we don’t speak directly) a proposal for negotiations on all of the biggest issues that America and Iran disagree on. At the time, we had just deposed Saddam Hussein and thought that an eventual overthrow of the Iranian leadership would be more effective than trying to reason with Iran. That sort of thinking is easy to write off as typical of the Bush administration, but a similar thought prevails in the current administration. The Bush administration thought we could use our military superiority to force Iran to comply with our wishes, and the Obama administration thinks we can use our economic superiority to force Iran to comply with our wishes.

Iran’s complete defiance of American foreign policy should remind us just how similar the two nations are. Iran is a stubborn nation convinced that they should let no other nation tell them what they can and cannot do. America is also a stubborn nation convinced that we should let no other nation tell us what to do. When the UN decided that war with Iraq shouldn’t be sought, the United States went to war anyways. When the U.S. and several other countries threatened to level a number of harsh sanctions on Iran, Iran threatened, and took initial steps towards, closing the Strait of Hormuz (where virtually all of the oil from the Middle East is exported from.)

Iran and America really do have quite a lot in common. A “Foreign Policy” article tried to emphasize just how much we have in common by quizzing the U.S. populace on whether Iran Supreme Leader Khameini or Republican Candidate Rick Santorum uttered a number of quotes. The quiz is a lot tougher than you’d think. That quiz can be found here.

Despite those similarities, it is clear there are a number of things that the U.S. and Iran disagree on. However, there are a number of things that the U.S. and China disagree on as well. We have excellent relations with them because we talk to them. We aren’t taught from a young age that China is a crazy nation that we should never trust. We aren’t constantly in fear of what China’s leaders will do, because we legitimize their beliefs and stances by engaging them in open discussion. It’s about time that the United States begins to talk openly with Iran. Iran should be able to develop nuclear technology, but they should be completely transparent about doing so. The only way to do that is by communicating.

It’s likely that if negotiations and communication between the U.S. and Iran opened up, the two nations would find their similarities more compelling than their differences. The two nations could absolutely become friendly.