Engagement with Iran: User name is ‘diplomacy’; password is ‘respect’

Tehran, Jan 28, IRNA – Nicholas Burns, former undersecretary of state has called on President Obama and whoever succeeds him to find a “right balance” on Iran that straddles “between cooperation on nuclear issues and containment of Iranian aggression.”

In an Op-Ed dated January 19 appearing in the New York Times, Burns said: “One thing is clear: The United States will face a major strategic challenge from Iran this year and next. In order to realize the long-term benefits of this historic (nuclear) deal, the United States must continue to balance engagement with deterrence.”
In response to Burns, a former top Iranian diplomat Hossein Mousavian sent a letter to NYT which was published in the paper on January 27.
The following is the text of the letter:
The surefire way to ensure that Iran abandons its obligations under the deal is to return to a policy of coercion.
Mr. Burns is right that Iran’s political system is not monolithic. There are forces that were critical of the nuclear negotiations, arguing that Iran gave up too much and that the United States cannot be trusted to follow through on its commitments. For more than 200 years, Iran’s sovereignty, independence and integrity have come under threat from world powers and regional conflicts. This has made Iranians resistant to occupation or submission.
An American approach centered on engagement, compromise and negotiations carried out with respect is what made the nuclear deal possible — not a policy based on coercion, which over years of use bore nothing but an expanded Iranian nuclear program. Iran responds positively to the language of respect, but becomes aggressive and inflexible when faced with threatening language or pressure.
“If the Americans show, in words and actions, that they are not irrational, then they will see that the Islamic Republic and the people of Iran are well-wishing, reasonable and cooperative,” Iran’s Leader, Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, has declared.
Engagement with Iran has a username, which is “diplomacy,” and a password, which is “respect.” Adopting this approach is the key to managing regional crises, whether in Syria, Yemen or elsewhere.
** Seyed Hossein Mousavian, a former Iranian diplomat, is a research scholar at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton.
A version of this letter appeared in print on January 27, 2016, on page A26 of the New York edition of the New York Times.