On Iran: a chance at peace

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Iran has always sparked a feeling of unease among Americans. The Iranian Revolution and the following hostage crisis would launch a feeling of a mutual hostility between Iran and the United States that would only grow worse in the following decades. Iran’s nuclear program, claimed to be for peaceful purposes, has not helped relations between the two nations, and with just reason. After witnessing the power of the atomic bomb and living under fear of nuclear annihilation during the Cold War, Americans have a right to fear any country’s nuclear program. Worse, Iran’s recent presidents have fiercely denounced the West, often using aggressive rhetoric aimed at violence rather than diplomacy.

Times change. On August 3, Hassan Rouhani took office as Iran’s new president. Rouhani visited New York in September and even had a phone conversation with President Obama, the first serious discussion between an Iranian leader and an American leader since 1979. Such gestures of diplomacy by Iran, a country that has spouted anti-American rhetoric for years, are a clear hint to our politicians at home: Iran is ready and willing to talk with the United States.

For years America has viewed Iran as a potential nuclear threat in an already tumultuous Middle East. In the past, mutual hostility prevented any sort of diplomatic negotiation and simply brought both countries unwanted results. For Iran, the United States imposed crippling sanctions. For the United States, Iran continued to work on its nuclear program. This war of political attrition has brought the two nations nowhere near any agreement. If we seek an end to this pointless political battle, it is vital that now, more than ever, the United States work with Iran to reach mutual nations’ goals.

Some of our citizens will claim that we have other issues to worry about, issues closer to home. To them I reply that we cannot allow such an important opportunity to escape. I urge our president to dedicate time to working with President Rouhani to forge an agreement that will not only guarantee more openness from Iran’s nuclear program, but will also lift Iran’s economic sanctions so that both nations may coexist.

Previous American presidents could only dream of working with an Iranian leader as open as Hassan Rouhani. To treat Iran’s new president with disrespect would only lead to even worse U.S.-Iran relations. Even if the diplomatic process proves to be slow and negotiations get tough, it is absolutely essential that we try.

Some of us at home may be wary of working with Iran, and rightly so. Iran has a history of being anti-American. They seized hostages at the American Embassy during the Iranian Revolution, and Iran’s leaders have fervently denounced the United States and our allies. But we cannot allow the past to prevent us from forging a path to the future.

President Rouhani has already distinguished himself from his predecessors by not only extending diplomatic gestures to the United States, but by putting distance between himself and his anti-American, aggressive predecessor.

Is it too soon to judge whether or not President Rouhani can be trusted? Some will argue so. But if we ever hope to achieve a world where we need not be concerned about nuclear weapons, without the fear of an unstable Middle East, we must work with Iran’s new president now to ensure that maybe one day, Iran and the United States will be allies instead of enemies.