Hello! It is difficult for me to believe that I’m now in my last semester at OU. As cheesy as it sounds, it really does seem like just yesterday that I was starting up this blog. I’m amazed at how much has happened in under four years – I’ve traveled to eight countries since then, had several awesome internships, developed passions I didn’t know that I had, and come up with a viable plan for my future. None of this means that I know what I’m doing yet, but I’ve had an amazing time finding my way.
Tonight, I had the immense pleasure of going to a talk by Dr. Trita Parsi at the Sam Noble Museum on the Iran nuclear deal. I’ve spoken before about how much I enjoy listening to experts discuss their fields, and tonight was no different. Dr. Parsi was eloquent, engaging, and extremely knowledgable, and I learned a great deal about the intricacies of the U.S.-Iran relationship over the last several decades. Dr. Parsi advised the Obama administration on the Iran nuclear talks and was also in conversations with Iranian officials. If anyone is an expert on this topic, it is this man.
He spoke of the historical roots of the relationship between Iran and the United States, and the complicated role that Israel played in the relationship. It was fascinating to hear about how things have changed over the years: in the 80s, Iran and Israel often worked together against common threats, such as Saddam Hussein and the USSR. However, in the early 90s, the USSR collapsed and the two countries became rivals. Iran refused to recognize Israel and the two countries no longer got along. The U.S. has gained and lost power of influence in the region over the years. As with all international disputes, the situation is complex with no clear solutions.
My two main takeaways from the talk are that effective diplomacy often requires creativity and that this creativity is often impossible without friends. During his time in office, President Obama imposed the harshest sanctions to date on Iran, crippling their economy for several years, in an attempt to get them to stop their nuclear program. These sanctions were only effective because Obama had international clout and got buy-in from many U.S. allies, who stopped buying Iranian oil. When Iran found ways to get around the sanctions, the U.S. then got creative, creating a secret channel to Iran through Oman in order to expedite nuclear talks.
Through this secret channel, American diplomats offered to let Iran keep a certain low number of centrifuges enriching uranium in exchange for their participation in the deal. The U.S. could not write down this offer for fear of upsetting its U.N. allies, who were still participating in the official nuclear talks, and Iran could not take a verbal agreement from the U.S. To get around this, the U.S. got the Sultan of Oman, a close ally to Iranian officials and to us, to personally deliver the offer. The Iranians could not refuse a personal offer from such a close friend lest they appear to be publicly distrusting an ally. Thus, the Iran nuclear deal was born. It would not have been possible without creativity and friends – unilaterally, the U.S. would have gotten nowhere.
In light of this, I am concerned with the U.S. government’s current treatment of diplomacy. An “America first” policy seems to serve only to alienate our closest allies. Additionally, many of our international embassies are currently without ambassadors. We appear to be ignoring attempts at diplomacy in a time when we need them the most; this talk proved that we NEED allies if we have any hope of solving our greatest international problems. During his talk, Dr. Parsi drew alarming parallels between talks with Iran over the last decade and the situation between the U.S. and North Korea now. If we are to look to our past and avoid the same mistakes, the government would do well to keep in mind that creative diplomacy and the curation of strong international friendships will likely be they key to an effective solution.