Americans Might Not Fear an Iran Nuclear Deal, If They Knew Iran Like I Do

Friday is day two of negotiations between Iran and the West. They meet again, and again, my family and my Iranian friends are anxious to see what comes from these talks. There is optimism, sure, but people are tired of being optimistic, including myself. We want a deal.

There is a lot of international concern over Iranian nuclear ambitions, but there’s more to it than that. Normalized relations between Iran and the West would give Iranians an opportunity to show the world our sophistication, our peaceful culture, and our embrace of America and American culture. 

If you walk the streets of the capital of Tehran you don’t feel like you’re in the Iran the media describes. You’re walking in a metropolis that is home to over 12 million people. This makes Tehran the largest city in Iran, and the fifth largest city in the world.

I was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, but that certainly doesn’t mean I haven’t encountered individuals who have opinions rooted in bigotry and hatred towards my people. I’ve had conversations with people who claim that the entire region should be bombed and obliterated. While these conversations are rare, they are disconcerting.

I’m often caught searching for words to rebut some of the preposterous claims I hear, but usually I tell myself to let it go. The people who suggest the should U.S. bomb its way out of problems are misguided. They’re misguided because they do not put any thought in diplomacy; some even dismiss diplomacy as a sign of weakness.

People who carry these views are wrong on so many levels. Diplomacy is the only option when it comes to Iran – a country with a sizable population and relatively sophisticated military apparatus. Unless you think engaging in bloody battles is good, diplomacy should always be preferred. Seeking a bloodless path certainly doesn’t equate to weakness, either.

People think President Obama should be more hard-line with Iran. They criticize him over being too diplomatic, an appeasers of sorts. I think this same group owes Obama a compliment. The progress coming from these talks make them historic, and I cannot imagine that they would even be taking place under a Republican president.

I have one foot rooted in Iranian culture and one foot more deeply rooted in American culture; I have deep concern over people’s attitudes regarding the U.S.-Iran feud. I am eager to see a resolution, as are millions of Iranians. I hope the constructive talks that are continuing in Geneva will yield some real solutions.

Some people speculate that a deal can be reached as early as Friday. Perhaps this is the reason why Secretary of State John Kerry is traveling to Geneva to meet with Iran’s foreign minister, Javad Zarif. This comes as the P5+1 talks between Iran and six world powers resume after a short hiatus of a few weeks.

According to Iranian-American journalist Hooman Majd, with whom I talked after the last round of negotiations, “The mood coming out of the talks was better than ever before. The Iranian team came in with a real proposal that was detailed, and according to other parties, significant. I would say that one should be somewhat optimistic at this point.” This time, diplomats from all seven nations involved will be discussing options for moving forward with a deal with Iran over its nuclear program.

Foreign minister Zarif has been on a charm offensive, recently coming back from a trip to France where he reportedly gave a silk rug to UNESCO and gave a 10-minute speech in English. The gift was part of Iran’s “rapprochement of cultures.” Zarif describes France as the most intransigent country Iran has dealt with, as France has spearheaded efforts to place more international sanctions on Tehran. Iran focused its attention on softening ties with France before the talks that are currently underway.

I am a proud Iranian who is frankly concerned that there are many interests out there whose primary objective is to foil any deal Iran reaches with the West. The new administration in Iran has matched their words with actions. The Iranians have a real desire to become integrated with the international community and, as such, want a deal. It is time we Americans unclenched our fists.

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Amir Salehzadeh

Amir Salehzadeh is a senior at the University of California, Berkeley studying Political Science. Amir has experience working for the local, state (CA), and federal level of government. He is involved with grassroots, community, and campaign organizing. He is particularly interested in foreign relations with the Middle East.

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