Diplomacy Not War with IranIran is an ancient culture and civilization that experienced a U.S. overthrow of its elected government in 1953, twenty-five years of autocratic rule, and an Islamic Revolution in 1979 that overthrew the pro-U.S. regime. The U.S. and Iran have had hostile relations since the seizure of U.S. Embassy hostages in 1979, but since then changes in both countries, and in the world, necessitate a new approach and recognition of common interests.

Over the course of nearly four decades, there have been times when the U.S. government has had overt or covert dealings with Iran, or when their external relations have been in alignment. In 1985, during the Reagan Administration, arms were sold to Iran to fund the supply of weapons to the Nicaraguan Contras, or rebels fighting the Sandinista government – in violation of the arms embargo and the Boland amendment prohibiting any funding of the Nicaraguan Contras, and in contravention of international law.

The Islamic Republic of Iran and the U.S. were on the same side during the civil conflict in Afghanistan, supporting the tribal-Islamist Mujahideen against the modernizing left-wing government in Kabul, supported by the Soviet Union. Both the U.S. and Iran were pleased when the left-wing government fell in 1992 and the Mujahideen came to power, but were dismayed when the Mujahideen turned their weapons on each other, in a second civil conflict.

Iran opposed the U.S. invasion of Iraq – even though it had been invaded by Iraq back in 1980. The invasion actually worked in Iran’s favor, as a Shia-dominated government came to power and has been in place since 2003. But the growth of regional terrorism, especially in the form of ISIS/ISIL/Daesh, which was founded by a former Iraqi prisoner held by the U.S., has caused considerable concern. Today, both Iran and the U.S. agree that a major priority should be on eradicating ISIS.

It is in the interest of both countries to limit nuclear proliferation, which is exactly what the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (Iran Nuclear Deal) does, and why it has been vigorously defended by the European signatories and the UN, as well as the Obama Administration. Opposition to the agreement or efforts to undermine it can only make our world even more dangerous.

Iran’s Foreign Minister (pictured with former Secretary John Kerry) recently declared that “Iran will never start a war.” It is in the interest of the American people that government officials make a similar declaration, ending hostility with Iran, cooperating on implementation of the Iran Nuclear Deal, ensuring that the Middle East is free of nuclear weapons, and helping to bring about a peaceful and stable region.

The worldwide spread of terrorism – in large measure the result of misguided U.S. foreign policies including the support of tribal-Islamist rebels in Afghanistan in the 1980s, the invasion of Iraq, the destabilization of Libya in 2011, as well as three decades of Saudi support for radical Islamists – has caused havoc around the world and concern in the U.S. Such terrorism is vigorously opposed by the Iranian authorities, and the U.S. should work with Iran to end it.

he U.S. should encourage its regional allies, especially Saudi Arabia and Israel, to end their hostility to the nuclear deal, accept a power-sharing future in the region, refrain from destabilizing governments, and work with its neighbors to defeat ISIS and other terrorist groups. Such moves would be in the interest of peace and security in the region.

Iran’s population includes a large educated middle class, including women, eager for normalization of business and civil society relations with the U.S. and ease of travel to and from the U.S. Removal of the onerous sanctions that have crippled the ability of U.S. companies to conduct business in Iran would be an important step toward normalization of relations.

Iranians are patriotic, proud of their country’s ancient history and rich culture, and likely to vigorously defend their country against any attempts at destabilization. It is in no country’s interest to attempt destabilization or war. Instead, all efforts should be directed to ending terrorism and protecting state sovereignty. Citizens should be able to generate their own movements and choose their own political futures without outside interference.

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