Are Diplomatic relations between the US and Iran a lost cause? Is Iran even willing to come to the table with the US? Has the Obama administration given sufficient attention to diplomacy with Iran? All of these questions and more were the topic of discussion with Middle East foreign policy expert, and author of the recently released, A Single Roll of the Dice: Obama’s Diplomacy with Iran, Trita Parsi.
Once again, the Junior Fellows were in attendance at a World Affairs Council sponsored event, this time Mr. Parsi being the guest speaker at the elegant Junior League Headquarters in Houston.
Mr. Parsi was a fine speaker and made the complex situation (or more accurately, situations) in the Middle East- particularly with Iran-more comprehensible. His basic argument was that the Obama administration had the right strategy going into negotiations with Iran but has not followed through with their original goals.
There are a multitude of reasons for this “stalemate”, but it can be primarily attributed to distrust of one another. For instance, to prevent or delay Iran from creating any weapons-grade uranium without losing their ability to gain energy self sufficiency by way of nuclear power, the Obama administration wanted an agreement with Iran to allow the US to be the “middleman” in taking all or some of the unprocessed uranium out of Iran. This would allow countries such as France and others who have the ability to refine the uranium down for energy consumption purposes in a responsible manner while simultaneously guaranteeing the US that part of Iran’s uranium stockpile was not being produced by Iran for more sinister purposes. Another benefit to this plan is that it takes away any justification or reason Iran might have in building and maintaining uranium processing plants since it would be getting refined outside of their country. However, Iran felt that the US would only take their uranium and never return it or at least delay the return of the processed uranium to Iran; thus, a deal was negotiated between both sides where Turkey (in which the US and Iran mutually agreed on as a trustworthy third party) would hold Iran’s Uranium in escrow, this way Iran would be guaranteed to get their uranium back if the US were to ever renege on certain stipulations. The rest of the plan as previously designed (to be refined in countries designated by the US would still be in place). This compromise had most of the details worked out, and was ready to be signed by both sides, but, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared that there was no chance that the US would accept the provisions in the plan; an obvious reversal, the reasons for which were never specified by the administration.
This was just one example described by Parsi, who interviewed more than 70 US and Iranian leaders and journalists while writing his book, and who demonstrated a deft capacity for incorporating appropriate examples with broader theories. The discussion was particularly enlightening because it built upon previous WAC events the Junior Fellows had attended, and because the audience was given the opportunity to ask questions. It was another first-class event by the World Affairs Council of Houston, and a step in the right direction for diplomacy.