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IRAN: Is peace possible between Washington, Tehran?

Iran-nicoulaud Iran-nicoulaud Iran experts abound. But few of those talking about the Islamic Republic have ever lived or worked there. 

Francois Nicoullaud, the former French envoy to Tehran, lived in Iran for more than four years, learned some Farsi and wrote a small book about Iran. 

He discussed ways to resolve the impasse over Iran's nuclear program in an article that appeared in today's Los Angeles Times. 

During the same interview, he talked about the deeper conflict between Iran and the U.S., and whether he saw any possibility of resolving the decades-old animosity rooted in the U.S. role in the 1953 coup d'etat that overthrew the democratically elected government of Mohammad Mossadegh and the 1979 revolution that led to the taking of hostages at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran

LAT: Do you think that the United States and Iran are ready to forgive and forget 30 years of hostility?

Francois Nicoullaud: The Americans have apologized already for the wrongdoings of the past, especially for the CIA coup against Mossadegh. The difficulty for the Iranians in apologizing for their own wrongdoings, ...

... namely the American hostages episode, comes from the fact that the takeover of the American Embassy has [been] built up as a founding myth of the Islamic Revolution, resembling the storming of the Bastille at the beginning of the French Revolution. 

But I certainly believe that the Iranians, apart from the political meaning of the event, could, and should, express, on humane grounds, their regrets and sympathy for the personal sufferings inflicted on the American hostages. Many of them already do so in private. 

LAT: Do you think they are ready to give up on "death to America, death to Israel” slogans, ideological pillars of the revolution? 

Nicoullaud: That also will come, in time. There should be a step-by-step approach. I believe the nuclear issue is the easiest to solve of all the problems that the West has with Iran, precisely because of its scientific and technical nature. It is much easier to verify the application of an agreement built on technical checks, controls and inspections than an agreement touching on the ways and means of Iran in the region, be it in Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, Iraq or Afghanistan.

LAT: Iran's highest authority, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, recently described Iran “returning to the world system” as submission to injustice, something that could never be allowed.

Nicoullaud: Suspicion is on both sides. But things change. This regime also is sensitive to public opinion. And the public opinion in Iran certainly favors coming to terms with the Americans. 

LAT: There was this window of opportunity from 2003 to 2005 when Iran suspended its uranium enrichment program, but then restarted. What lessons can we draw from that experience, if any? 

Nicoullaud: One basic mistake on the part of the West, of the Europeans, was to think that we could seduce Iran with carrots. The Europeans tried to put together some kind of package containing civilian planes, oil drilling equipment, power plants, economic cooperation, membership to the World Trade Organization. ... But the package could not take form as long as the Americans were not ready to lift their economic sanctions. 

And furthermore, it was basically a wrong approach to reward Iran for not trying to produce a nuclear bomb. Being a member of international Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, it is Iran's simple duty to remain away from such a endeavor. So we created a sort of bazaar atmosphere, which was very detrimental to the negotiation. 

LAT: Do you think that the Obama administration is doing well so far in terms of dealing with Iran? 

Nicoullaud: Obviously it still has to build a united approach, and this is quite natural for a young administration. Discussions are going on, and one can see progress. I guess that the Americans will be ready intellectually to negotiate by the end of the summer. So the critical period will be October, November and December 2009. 

-- Borzou Daragahi in Beirut

Photo: Francois Nicoullaud. Credit: NECO/SIPA/Newscom
Comments () | Archives (13)

Iran's problems at the present, or rather since the inception of the Islamic Revolution, seems to the result of supremacy of religion over politics. To understand why this ascendancy and domination of the religion over everything elde would lead to obvious or unforeseen difficulties, one has to consider, to some extend, who as a child or a young person wluld choose to be a future member of the clergy. In old days, before universal access to public education in the country for every kid, it was an established and commen practice for the child to follow the foot steps of his father. But at present this practice is still commen for the clergy. There is nothing wrong with it except that this business of becoming a cleric is failure proof. If the student fails lots of classes, whereas in a normal school he would be unable to continue, he will still be able to reach some decision making positions in the future. For most, becoming a cleric has nothing to do with a relative degree of intelligence, originality, expressiveness, creativity and so on. Actually, it is a commen knowledege in Iran that attending a religious school is hte only way for those who wouldn't succeed in a normal school, considering the human nature itself. It is not a shame or a hindrance to become a cleric. There have always been some brilliant and highly intelligent members of clergy in Iran. But, it could be davastating for a country or a people when some less bright individuals consistently throughout the country become decision makers. In last couple of decades the prospect of wealth and riches has been very encouraging for lots of families to send their kids to religious schools. This is very sad and unfortunate. But sooner or later the people will realize that religion is something private. It is supposed to be a guidance to a better life and nothing more.

Mr. Saint Michael Traveler: Thank you for your kind response. I just wish more people around the world to know, as you do, what Iran has gone through ist often violent and hearth breaking history. And it is also true that past should always be a reminder to us to be wary of constant lurking thrests and dangers in the world around us.

Thank you for your comment. It is true that Iranian people have been ruled by one king or another since the Persian Empire was created by Cyrus the Great. But during the time of Qajar Dynasty (1796 Agha Mohammad to 1925 the end of Ahmed Shah), Iran suffered from the incompetence of these kings. This is the period when Europe was bursting with advances in science and technology, and the start of democratic system of governing in USA. Reading the Iranian history of this period reflected in my statement that “As a nation, Iranians should recognize the reality of the world; it is not a safe place.” Iranian people recognize that dark ages of Qajar Dynasty should never be repeated once more.

You said: ..." I find this very naive. It shows your knowledge and understanding of Iran is, unfortunately, limited." Would you please read the following post?
Iran: My Friend Oscar

Mr. Saint Michael Traveler@ You said in a comment: "As a nation, Iranians should recognize the reality of the world; it is not a safe place..." I find this very naive. It shows your knowledge and understanding of Iran is, unfortunately, limited. Iran has been ruled by Shahs and dictators from before dawn of the written history. Iranian people have rarely had a chance to have a say in their countries affairs. Iran's success or failure all depended on the character of the person who ruled the country. I would like to recommend you to read a book about Iran by Michael Axworthy called "IRAN: EMPIRE OF THE MIND". At least, the parts which deal with Brithish involvement in Iran from 1800s on. "Michael Axworthy visited Iran many times as a teenager in the 1970s, and served as the Head of Iran Section in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) from 1998-2000. His second book appeared in November 2007 as Empire of the Mind: A History of Iran (Hurst Books) and was published in Penguin paperback in November 2008 as Iran: Empire of the Mind. He was appointed Director of Exeter University's new Centre for Persian and Iranian Studies (CPIS) in the autumn of 2008". (from University of Exeter site).

S.M.T., Cutting European meddling from Iran and US re-engagement is one short term solution among many other complex problems, I should have use "Iran" instead of "Shah" in 1979 to be fair and not bring attention to personalities instead of homeland which supersede any characters in any giving time anyway.
Your problem with Israeli lobbies calls for more long term solution rather than try to un-sit their powers within short time in order to facilitate current drive to bring Iran and US in to friendly atmosphere, Israel is a British creation too.
Jewish immigration to US began in middle of 19 century and they had a long time to blend in and fix the system according to their liking, LA became what it's today from a dusty village by Jewish movie studios, Iranians have start to immigrate to US during last 50 years and it will take few generation for American Iranians who were born here to start blending in with US way of life and considering their wealth and education, future looks positive for Iranians and I just hope when they reach position of powers in US in future, they don't abuse it by forgetting their allegiance to US first and foremost, if you will; just be Persian!

AIPAC will not allow Obama to have a real in peace with Iran! It is not what Obama wants, it is what AIPAC wants. AIPAC's interests are not the American's interests, they are Israeli's interests.
AIPAC is the real traders to this country. They have total control fo the US congress and to some extent Presidnts. Look, White House chief of staff (Rahm Emanue) who served in the Israeli army is an AIPAC!They love Israel more than the US. They are only using the US to achieve their own goals, and eventually they would cause the collapse of this country.
Well, look at all the companies that collapsed the US economy, and were bailed out (stole tax payers' money!) They were all tied into AIPAC! Auto Companies were not related to AIPAC that is why they were so scrutenized! AIPAC is the biggest Mafia after the Rothchild family! Poor US and the Middle Eastern countries who have been suffering beacuse of Israel and her supporters. Iran has the potential to be the best US and that is why Israel is afraid of them since Israel want s to dominate the region along the US! Peace!

Javad, you said: “…it was British who dominated Iran and it was British who engineered Iranian regime change in Iran 1953 for sake of BP oil contracts, it was British who engineered Iranian regime change in 1979 since Shah wouldn't sign on to new 25 years exclusive BP oil contract while CIA was sleep on wheel, Iranian oil and other goods are freely traded and taxed in London since Iranian revolution but not in New York, maybe US want to reexamine her past…”
I heard a Persian expression that was translated to: "If you don't want people to ride you and make you carry a load, and then stop being a donkey."

As a nation, Iranians should recognize the reality of the world; it is not a safe place. Shah lent Israel over 2 billion dollars prior to 1979. The money was used to make better nuclear bombs, rockets and improve the Israeli fighter planes. Now, those bombs and planes are threatening to destroy Iran. Iran will not get one single dollar back either. Smart Israelis.

I think there is also a lesson for us too. We should not forget the bombing of the USS Liberty:

In one of the comments there was a talk of European empires. Looking at things here from central Europe it is quite apparent Austrians are up to charge their donkeys agein but this time they will brake their necks. As the ring leader this country is thinking of reviving the Holy Roman Empire dismantled by Napoleon on 1806. All the bandits, skin heads, rar right groups, forigner haters, and etc in Austria and Eastern European countries are puting their acts together with the help of Known infamous individuals like David Duke the kkk leader who has been living in Austia last five years. This is one of the reasons why these and other countries in Europe would love to see continued hostilities between the US and Iran, least of all, for energy sources.

Irani@ hang on to your parachute, Iranians landed in military 747 light years ago so you can feel at home in USA presently, few Indians to take care of do!

The Europeans in general will do anything to torpedo any peospect of rapprochement between the US and Iran.

I agree with Javad. the Great Bratain also provides the Taliban with weapons and protects the popy growers in Afghanistan. High level Iranian clerics and dignitaries visit London quite often. The close relationship between Iran's clergy and Britain dates back to 1800s. So America has a lot to do to deal with British mischief. The nickname for the British in the Middle East is fox.

Peace between US and Iran will happens when both come to a understanding that it's a despise for British imperial system that they have in common and strangely have kept them apart, both know since US independence, it was British who dominated Iran and it was British who engineered Iranian regime change in Iran 1953 for sake of BP oil contracts, it was British who engineered Iranian regime change in 1979 since Shah wouldn't sign on to new 25 years exclusive BP oil contract while CIA was sleep on wheel, Iranian oil and other goods are freely traded and taxed in London since Iranian revolution but not in New York, maybe US want to reexamine her past with British in order to understand current realities with Iran and wider Middle-East and think twice about if British and other European dying empires are really out there to make life easier for US/Iran or not, It's not a favor for US which is driving these second rate powers to spent blood and treasure in current world conflicts, it's their fear of losing more of their old colonial turfs since WWII that drives them; Algiers and Hong Kong to name a few. USSR gave them breathing time but she's gone and nothing can stop their demise unless reemergence of fresh power equal to US, not much of hope for has been European imperial powers!

Actually the EU offer to Iran to suspend enrichment failed was because the EU blatantly violated their end of the bargain when they demanded that Iran abandon enrichment permanently even though they had agreed previously not to do so.
One analyst called the EU offer to Iran an "empty box in pretty wrapping".


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