Noruz:The Political Angle

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on March 23, 2009

As many have noted, Noruz, the Persian New Year, is upon us. The Obama Administration responded to the celebrations by giving them a political cast (via The Lede):


In response, let’s note that contrary to the contentions of some, there is nothing particularly groundbreaking about the fact that the White House chose to acknowledge Noruz. After all, the Bush Administration did that all the time with public pronouncements year after year.

To be sure, the Obama Administration’s attempt to reach out to Iran is a break from Bush Administration practice. A pity that it was met with something of a rebuff, but that should really come as no surprise. It is going to take a lot more than televised messages in the context of Persian New Year celebrations to thaw the relationship between Tehran and Washington. There has to be a meeting of interests, and thus far, the perception in Tehran amongst the hardliners appears to be that there is no interest served in getting closer to the United States at this time.

Perhaps at some point, that will change. But if we are going to engage in talks with Tehran, I hope that we put everything on the table, and talk not just about nuclear weapons, but also about Iran’s support for terrorism, about security in the region, about the antipathy of the Ahmadinejad government towards the State of Israel and about human rights in Iran as well. That last issue doesn’t get all that much attention, unfortunately. But, it should.

Given the fact that both sides of my family are from Iran, there is nothing that would make me happier than to see a rapprochement between my ancestral land, and the country where I am a citizen. Wishing, however, will not make it so. A true rapprochement depends on a realistic appraisal of national interests and talks that take a comprehensive approach to the strained nature of Iranian-American relations, as opposed to treating the issue in piecemeal fashion.

Want to talk to Iran? Great. Let’s talk. But let’s talk about everything, including things that may make the Islamic regime uncomfortable. Quite frankly, most of the Iranian people would like nothing more than for the regime to get a little less comfortable. Maybe making it so by shining a light on regime activities Iran’s leaders would prefer to remain in the shadows–especially violations of human rights in Iran–will lead to a better life for the Iranian people in general.

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