Diplomacy Doesn’t Require Romance


Scott McConnell dreams of a “love-affair” between the US and Iran:

[I]magine: the nuclear diplomacy track gets going, and Iran makes it clear that it will trade transparency and inspections to ensure non-weaponization. Obama does what he can strip away the sanctions, encouraged by Europe, which is eager to trade and invest in Iran. And suddenly Americans realize there is this large, sophisticated Muslim country, with a large middle class and a huge appetite for American culture and business.

…  My guess is that many Americans will fall in love with [Iran] —or at least with the combination of exoticism and profits that detente with Iran promises. Yes, there will be blind and naive aspects to the love—when is there not?—but it will unleash powerful forces that governments cannot control.

Millman counters:

[T]hese kinds of fantasies can be quite destructive as we approach the diplomatic process, because by raising expectations they invite the perception of failure. Our goal is not “flipping” Iran from the enemy to the allied column.

We should not be surprised or offended if Iran continues to posture against America in international forums, or even take more concrete actions to frustrate our aims in the region. We should expect them to want to drive a wedge between us and our allies, and to spin any agreement as our defeat. We should keep our eye on our primary objectives. Our goals are avoiding war and neutralizing the destabilizing threat of Iranian nuclearization. Their goals are avoiding war and ending the sanctions regime. We have concrete goals and interests, and so do they. That’s what we should be talking about – and getting to a deal on. If love follows in its season, well and good. But we don’t need it.

Larison chimes in:

I would add that the most successful negotiation between the U.S. and Iran might be one that results in an agreement that both governments can sell to their respective hard-liners as a national victory. As appealing as rhetoric about moving beyond “zero-sum” relationships may be, an enduring deal between the U.S. and Iran probably has to be one that placates enough hard-liners in both countries, and that could mean portraying the deal as a loss for the other country. As desirable as full rapprochement with Iran would be, that will likely have to wait for a later time.

(Screenshot by Andrew Kaczynski, who captured the tweets before they and others were deleted from Rouhani’s account. Mackey has more: “Another of the deleted updates, captured by The Lede, described the two presidents wishing each other farewell in their own languages. Mr. Rouhani offering the American blessing, “Have a nice day!” and Mr. Obama responding with the Persian word for goodbye, “Khodahafez” —literally, “May God protect you.”)