Ali Sheikholeslami: American persuasion is the only way forward on Iran

Independent Minds
Click to follow

Iran, as ever, occupies an important place in any new President's agenda, so, I offer some advice for Barack Obama as he surveys the Iranian situation.

If you can't yet come to terms with the hostage crisis, remember that Iran has a lot more cards to play with. The 1953 American-designed coup that deprived Iran of its best chance for democracy, the Iran-Iraq war when Saddam was encouraged and supported financially and militarily by the US, and the shooting down of Iran Air's passenger Airbus by USS Vincennes are just three examples. You don't even need a second glance to realise that the consequences of each of those events have been far greater and graver than the hostage issue. Play as if you have a clean, white sheet of A4.

This has been the line of American governments and not only it has always failed, but also the policy is arguably one that could be blamed for much of the Iranian people's suffering. The more threatened the Iranian government feels, the stronger the clamp down on people's liberties becomes. Any links to the outside world may be interpreted as espionage, as they were in the case of the Alaei brothers, two internationally acclaimed Aids doctors who are in jail because they took part in US exchange programmes. Stop threatening Iran, begin engaging.

It was before the first round of UN sanctions over Iran's nuclear issue that George Bush promised those measures would, "in no way affect the lives of normal Iranians". They have. If a normal Iranian wants to send $100 for his daughter who studies psychology in France, the banks will refuse to transfer it. Don't forget that because of the US embargo credit card companies, such as Visa and Master Card, are not allowed to operate in Iran.

There's only one way to get out of this 30-year-old swamp. Trump the Iranian government. Like your predecessors, Iranian leaders cherish having a big enemy; it serves them well on national fronts. It's the easiest button to push, resorting to the rhetoric that all problems arise from America.

If there are issues you would like to resolve or actions you want to see Iran engaging in, such as halting its uranium enrichment, your only way forward is to talk to them and convince them. Iranians will never stop this activity in order only to start a dialogue with the US or benefit from incentives from the West.

Start your own Independent Minds blog: