A suggested route to improved US-Iran relations

A suggested route to improved US-Iran relations
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Iranian trust in U.S. policy toward Iran is totally lacking; the inconsistency of that policy during and since the Jimmy CarterJimmy CarterJimmy Carter released from hospital Booker notes 'anger' over more billionaires than black candidates in 2020 race New Hampshire parochialism, not whiteness, bedevils Democrats MORE Administration has proved, at times, detrimental to Iran. Initially, President Carter praised the Shah and declared that under his leadership Iran “was an island of stability in one of the more troubled areas of the world.” After making that statement, Mr. Carter refused to be in touch with the Shah and ignored the Shah’s proposal to back the election of an Iranian prime minister and the possible establishment of a monarchy based on the British model. I personally served as the Shah’s emissary to the U.S. Government in his effort to get his proposal before President Carter.

Saeed Kamali Dehghan and David Smith of The Guardian reported in a 2016 article titled “U.S. Had Extensive Contact With Ayatollah Khomeini Before Iran Revolution” that the Carter Administration aided Ayatollah Khomeini’s return to Iran by preventing the Iranian military from launching a military coup. The presence of General E. Huyser, Deputy Commander in Chief of the U.S. European Command in Germany, plus the back-door diplomacy practiced by U.S. Ambassador William H. Sullivan in his interactions with Ayatollah Khomeini’s minions in Iran helped ensure the success of the Islamic Revolution and the establishment of the Islamic Republic.

Under President Barak Obama tensions between the two countries began to relax, and in 2015 the P5+1 and Iran signed the Iran nuclear agreement. The normalization of relations seemed possible.


Under President Donald Trump, however, U.S.-Iran relations appear to have reached an impasse. Mr. Trump has withdrawn from the nuclear agreement; Iran is beginning to breach the uranium stockpile limits established in the deal. The rhetoric between the two countries is increasingly bitter and alarming.

Only the sincere application of public diplomacy can break the impasse; only President TrumpDonald John TrumpPence: It's not a "foregone conclusion" that lawmakers impeach Trump FBI identifies Pensacola shooter as Saudi Royal Saudi Air Force second lieutenant Trump calls Warren 'Pocahontas,' knocks wealth tax MORE can initiate the diplomatic process, which involves numerous steps, the first being the cessation by President Trump of the use of negative and belittling language when talking about or to Iran. Iranians respond positively to socially correct and diplomatic figures of speech but may recoil at threatening speech and strike back.

Second, President Trump needs to limit his open expression of the apparent fascination he has for the Arabs, particularly the Saudis, and show at least some respect for Iran and its historically rich culture. He also needs to accept Iran as an important regional power that relatively recently established itself as a Middle East force to be reckoned with. Equal recognition and detestation should be given to Iranian and Arab terrorism.

Separate discussions should be initiated with the P5 and the European Union concerning the improvement of the nuclear deal. Each country’s ideas and concerns should be solicited and, to the extent possible, woven into an upgraded agreement. 

The diplomatic process involved in saving and upgrading the Iran nuclear deal may be slow and frustrating, but the alternative is unacceptable. Only cerebral diplomacy and a display of respect for Iran and its culture can end the continuing conflict and Iran’s multiple and unfortunate attempts to attract attention and force negotiations much wanted by them.

Franklin T. Burroughs lived and worked in the Middle East for more than 15 years. He served as consultant to the Prime Minister and Minister of Health in Iran, and represented Mohammad Reza Shah as personal representative to President Jimmy Carter. He also served as General Manager of the U.S.-Iran Chamber of Commerce in Iran until the revolution. After returning to the United States, Burroughs worked as a consultant with the U.S. Dept. of Commerce and the U.S. Dept. of Energy, and as contractor with the U.S. Dept. of State. He also served as professor, chair of the MBA program and acting dean, School of Business, Notre Dame de Namur University in Belmont, Calif., and as adjunct professor at John F. Kennedy University in Pleasant Hill, Calif.