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The U.S. and Iran: A Look at U.S. Foreign Policy Toward Iran 

by Franklin T. Burroughs, Ed.D.

            Dr. Burroughs earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Pepperdine College, his Master of Science in Education from the University of Southern California and his Doctor of Education degree from the University of California at Los Angeles.  He lived and worked in the Middle East for some fifteen years, fourteen of those years in Iran.

            While in Iran, Dr. Burroughs served as Executive Director of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Professor at National University and Iran College for Women, Consultant in Protocol to the Ministry of Court and Consultant to the Prime Minister and Minister of Health.  He also was Consultant to UNESCO and the Ford Foundation.

            In the United States Dr. Burroughs has held the following positions: Advisor to the U.S. Department of Commerce; Visiting Scientist at the U.S. Department of Energy; President, Armstrong University; Acting Dean, School of Business, Notre Dame de Namur University; and, Lecturer at the University of California, Berkeley and Vista College.  Currently, he is serving as an English Language Officer on a contract basis with the U.S. Department of Commerce and Professor at John F. Kennedy University.

The United State has enjoyed one of the world’s strongest economies and has greatly influenced international diplomacy since World War II. As a nation, it has proved wrong numerous forecasts of its imminent economic or military demise. Yet despite its economic, military and diplomatic successes, its Middle East policy, particularly its policy toward Iran, has in the past few decades proved to be its Achilles’ heel.

Iran’s policy toward the United States has hardly been positive. The Government of Iran has sponsored or actively supported groups engaged in terrorism or opposed to U.S. policy in the Middle East. Almost any development having the imprimatur of the United States has seemed to provoke Iran’s leaders to engage in opposition.

For the past thirty plus years, diplomats from both the U.S. and Iran have continued to operate under outdated world views and have failed to acknowledge or apply the changing realities of diplomacy. Negativity has characterized the relations between the two countries. This paper offers suggestions for transforming the negativity into positivity for the mutual benefit of the two nations and the entire Middle East region.


U.S.-Iran Relations in Historical Perspective


U.S.-Iran relations extend back at least to the mid-nineteenth century and may be divided into three distinct periods: the Golden Age or Period of Complete Trust; the Age of Greed; and, the Age of Hostility or Confrontation. Although these designations do not represent official historical titles, they do clearly show the differences among the three periods, and their use is for that purpose.

The period of U.S.-Iran relations from the mid-1800s to 1950s might be termed the Golden Age or the Period of Complete Trust, on the part of both Iranian citizens and officials. American missionaries established schools and hospitals and endeared themselves to the Iranians despite the controversies that arose over conversions to Protestantism from Islam and Orthodox Christianity. The Iranians felt the missionaries had Iran’s best interests at heart.

Direct relations between the U.S. and Iranian governments date from the 1840s. Based partially on the activities and accomplishments of the American missionaries, Iranians originally considered the U.S. Government an impartial entity interested in helping them protect their natural resources and sovereignty against such imperialist countries as Britain and Russia. They hoped that the U.S. would enable them to return to their former greatness as a nation.

In the 1950s, Washington introduced an era in U.S.-Iran relations which might be called the Age of Greed. The U.S. Government focused on the containment of Communism rather than the preservation of Iran’s natural resources and participated in a coup d’etat that overthrew Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh and restored Mohammad Reza Pahlavi to the throne. Until the demise of the Soviet Union, the major U.S. focus in its relations with Iran was on the containment of Communism and less on Iran as a nation. Often U.S. administrations either dictated or strongly encouraged reforms intended not just to benefit the Iranian people but also to make certain the Soviet Union did not increase its influence in the country. As a result, U.S.-Iran relations grew increasingly strong while encouraging an ever greater dependence on the U.S. and its advice.

In the early 1960s, a religious leader known as Ayatollah Ruhollah Khoemini began to proclaim his opposition to the Shah and ultimately the U.S.-Iran alliance. The Government of Iran arrested Khomeini in 1963 and exiled him one year later after a quiet meeting held in the Tehran bazaar. Among those individuals in attendance at the meeting were the following: the Shah; a popular Azarbaijani religious leader known as Ayatollah Mohammad Kazem Shariatmadari; and, a wealthy, now-deceased bazaari whose family name was Eslami. This group could have imprisoned Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran but chose to send him abroad, thinking that his absence from Iran would be sufficient to quiet his proclamations and diminish his influence. Hindsight is always better than foresight. The decision to exile Mr. Khomeini ultimately led to a third and highly contentious phase in the U.S.-Iran relationship: the Age of Hostility.

Unfortunately, the decision to exile Ayatollah Khomeini proved to be hugely negative for the Shah as well as Ayatollah Shariatmadari and Mr. Eslami. The Shah, of course, lost his throne when the Islamic Revolution occurred and found it difficult to find a place to settle with his family after his forced departure from Iran.

Ayatollah Shariatmadari, who was himself a marja or a religious authority able to make legal decisions related to Islamic law, declared Ayatollah Khomeini a marja following Khomeini’s arrest in the 1960s, thereby saving him from imminent prosecution and possible execution. According to an online article enitled “A Brief History of ‘House Arrests’ and Detentions in ‘Safe Houses’: What Will Be the Fate of Disappeared Leaders?” issued by the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, Ayatollah Shariatmadari was put under house arrest following conflict between his followers and those of Ayatollah Khomeini shortly after the revolution. An accusation and supposed confession of complicity in a possible coup d’etat against the Islamic Republic led to further restrictions. He died incommunicado in the mid 1980s. (www.iranhumanrights.org/2011/03/history-of-house-arrests)

Interestingly, I personally witnessed an attempt by the Iranian military in 1979 to convince Ayatollah Shariatmadari to back a coup against the Islamic Republic. Mr. Eslami had introduced me to the Ayatollah and several times accompanied me to Qom for private visits with him. About 2:00 a.m. one morning in early October 1979, I was in the Ayatollah’s bureau discussing possible business ventures with him when three Iranian military officers entered the room escorted by a member of the Ayatollah’s staff. When the Ayatollah inquired as to the purpose of their visit, they stated in no uncertain terms that the military was ready to undertake a coup if he would provide his support. I offered to dismiss myself but was asked by him to remain in the room. After listening carefully to their proposal, the Ayatollah asked me if I would convey the message brought by the officers to the U.S. Embassy in an effort to determine what the U.S. might support. I did convey the message, which, I understand, was forwarded to Washington, D.C. Washington’s response was negative; the Ayatollah and I never discussed the possibility of a coup again.

Mr. Eslami himself suffered both psychologically and financially from the revolution even after his move to the United States. He had been quite successful in Iran and maintained a rather large garage near the Tehran bazaar. He kept several vans in the garage. When planning Operation Eagle Claw, the attempt to free the fifty-two Americans held captive at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1980, the Central Intelligence Agency (C.I.A.) approached Mr. Eslami about using his garage and some of the vans to temporarily hide the hostages and transport them to the waiting helicopters. The mission was, of course, ultimately aborted, but Mr. Eslami lost a considerable amount of money when the Government of the Islamic Republic discovered his role in the attempted rescue and seized his garage and vans. He asked me several times to write letters to the C.I.A., seeking remuneration for his losses. Despite my efforts, Mr. Eslami, to my knowledge, was never reimbursed for his losses.

The Age of Hostility or Confrontation replaced the Age of Greed in 1979, when the Islamic Revolution shook the foundations of Iranian civil society. Since the revolution, the governments of both the United States and Iran have expressed mistrust and dislike for each other. The U.S. paints Iran as part of “the axis of evil” while Iran regards the U.S. as the “Great Satan.”


A Look at Societal Realities


Both the U.S. and Iran have experienced complex challenges during the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, the dominant one being globalization, the growing application of technology and a conflict of world views. Globalization involves the integration of national economies into a developing international economy through the reduction of trade barriers, foreign direct investment, capital flows, migration and the dissemination of technology. It has contributed to the transnational diffusion of ideas, languages and cultural practices and has resulted in the need to reconstruct the concept of diplomacy from an exterior or global perspective rather than strictly Eurocentric/ North America and Iran perspectives.

In an article entitled “Globalization Genie is Out of the Bottle in Iran and There’s No Putting it Back” published in the Jakarta Globe on May 21, 2010, Jamsheed K. Choksey wrote: “Globalization has reached Iran and is here to stay.” Mr. Choksey goes on to explain how Iranian women in cities, including the religious stronghold of Qom, adorn their heads with Chanel scarves rather than simply covering them. All types of Western music are popular, and such activities as online dating, internet chat groups and even sexual relationships threaten to upset the “clergy-dictated” pattern of life in private settings. Drug and alcohol use has increased significantly despite the religious leaders’ efforts to enforce an Islamic code of conduct. (www.thejakartaglobe.com/opinion/globalization-genie-is-out-of-the-bottle-in-Iran....)

Further, opportunities presented by globalization as well as perceptions of social injustice have, over the last few decades, encouraged the migration of Iran’s intellectual elite to other countries and the emergence of the bazaari class with its emphasis on financial gain without the appropriate reference to business ethics and/or the national welfare. According to Davood Salmani, Gholamreza Taleghani and Ali Taatian of the University of Tehran, the brain drain has been serious. These authors, who wrote a paper entitled “Impacts of Social Justice Perception on Elite Migration,” contend that the departure of the elite from Iran represents a serious social problem that needs to be corrected. Iran requires, so the authors say, educated manpower to realize its twenty-year national vision: becoming a developed country. (Iranian Journal of Management Studies, Volume 4, Number 1, March 2011, pages 43-62)

Even though Iranians have long integrated elements of Western cultures into their social fabric, globalization seems to have intensified the influence of the West on Iran. This intensification has resulted in a social conflict between the more Westernized and the more religious-minded, traditional members of Iranian society.

According to Washington Post Staff Writers Jon Cohen and Peyton M. Craighill, an increasing number of Americans have a negative view of the acceleration of globalization. Some sixty percent of Americans looked positively on the economic interconnectedness in 2001, but the percentage has fallen to thirty-six in 2011. Many feel the U.S. cannot compete globally as it once did and thirty-three percent of the American public put the fragility of the international economy at the top of their fear list. Approximately sixty percent of the individuals polled felt the U.S. was on the wrong track while more than eighty percent rated the U.S. economy negatively. (“More in U.S. grow wary of globalization,” Washington Post Staff Writers, Saturday, January 29, 2011) www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/01/28/AR2011012806137html}

On June 30, 2011, Rick Newman made the following pronouncement in his introduction to an online article entitled “Why U.S. Companies Aren’t So American Anymore”: “’Globalization’ has become a dirty word.” He acknowledges that Americans most often associate globalization with the shipment of jobs overseas, a reduction in wages and living standards and the rise of China as a global power. He also lists fifteen major U.S. firms that derive a major portion of their revenue from overseas operations. Those include Wal-Mart, Exxon-Mobil, Bank of America, Ford, IBM and Intel. The article indirectly points out the conflict over globalization. Americans look at their personal, often less-than-satisfactory situations resulting from the globalization of business while the companies view the trend of globalization as a means of improving their corporate earnings. (http://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/flowchart/2011/06/30/why-us-companies...)

Undoubtedly, globalization is influencing world economies positively in some ways, but it appears the phenomenon is resulting in internal conflict in both Iran and the United States. The components of the conflict may differ in the two countries, but the ongoing battle between and among the groups with opposing points of view in each country will eventually need to be addressed and a solution or compromise worked out. The application of technology encompasses business and commerce, education, biology and a variety of cultural fields and includes such diverse endeavors as video conferencing, game-based learning, marketing and digital storytelling. The stories told digitally can conflict with the national culture. Certainly, the sexually- oriented films that one knowledgeable Iranian recently disclosed are being beamed into Iran from Western countries, including the United States, do not comply with the social and religious principles espoused by the Iranian regime. According to this source, even very young children are being exposed to the sensual materials. The result, according to a piece appearing in the August 20th 2011 issue of The Economist, is a “secular malaise:” an increased murder rate, a breakdown in family relations and burgeoning personal debt. (The Economist, August 20th 2011, page 45)

Technology has, in all probability, also increased inequality in Iran. It tends to emphasize the development and use of technological skills and reduce considerably the need for unskilled labor, resulting in important wage differences. Traditional interpersonal communication can be greatly diminished.

In the United States, the application of technology has had both negative and positive effects. Among the positive influences is the reported increase in student learning. The journal Learning and Leading with Technology reported as early as 2002 in an article written by John Cradler, Mary McNabb, Molly Freeman and Richard Burchett and entitled “How Does Technology Influence Student learning?” that studies showed that computer-assisted instructional applications significantly aided students in the comprehension of content areas, the development of problem-solving skills and preparation for entering the workforce. (www.iste.org/learn/publication/learning-and-leading.aspx) Technology has, in many instances, streamlined business operations. Technology has, however, increased the number of patent lawsuits in the United States, resulting in the withdrawal of many products from the U.S. versions of Apple’s App Store and Google’s Android Market. (Charles Arthur, Guardian’s technology editor, guardian.co.uk) The application of technology led the U.S. to create nuclear technology in 1945 and use the nuclear bomb on Japan in World War II. Now the U.S. has to worry about other countries, including Iran, developing and using nuclear weapons. Finally, technology application has had an increasing tendency to isolate individuals.

An article appearing in the Article Online Directory of May 12, 2009, summed up the dilemma presented by the application of technology in this way: 

Technology has its benefits, but when you take a look at how it has affected society in general and how people interact with one another, you will quickly see that it has a negative impact. Modern technology has allowed people to communicate with just about anyone they want to at any given time and although this may sound like a good thing, the fact remains that people do not interact personally with one another as often as they used to. (“The Negative Effects of Advancing Technology on Society” by Aydan Corkern) This quotation can be applied not only to the average Iranian and American but also to the diplomats of both countries. Advanced technology enables the latter to talk indirectly at rather than directly to their counterparts. It can discourage face-to-face communication and create barriers to understanding. It can also prevent a real and authentic search for solutions to country-to-country problems.

Currently, one worldview that seems prominent in both Iran and the United States is traditionalism. Traditionalists in the United States emphasize church, family and principles based on Biblical teachings; in Iran, they give priority to the Quran and Islamic traditions. U.S traditionalists or conservatives lean toward the Republican and Tea Parties; Iranian traditionalists can be religious stalwarts, individuals steeped in Iran’s rich and ancient culture, or traditional businessmen or bazaaris. U.S. traditionalists or conservatives stress a balanced approach to relations with other countries and national self interest over ambitions to promote particular ideologies. They are basically opposed to interfering in the politics of other countries.

Traditionalism or conservatism should not be confused with “neo-conservatism”. Originally, the latter term embodied a criticism of American modern liberalism. Adherents to this world view advocate the use of U.S. economic and military power to overthrow the enemies of the U.S. and promote liberal democracy. Neo-conservatives had considerable influence in the George W. Bush Administration. The behavior of Iranian government officials often suggests that they hold not only the neo-conservative world view but also the postmodernist view that the Western world is an outdated lifestyle operating under impersonal and faceless government bureaucracies. They declare that the freedom and prosperity claimed by the West represent nothing more than empty promises. They emphasize the flawed nature of democratic institutions. They continue to defy entreaties from Western powers to cease their pursuit of the atomic bomb and quietly help groups considered terrorists by the West. Their proclamations indicate that they view Western powers, particularly the United States, as neo-conservative entities. Despite their neo-conservative and postmodernist views, Iranian officials display a great deal of political practicality. They offer a monthly stipend to a large number of uneducated Iranian citizens and subsidize food purchases to help counteract the high level of inflation. The recipients of this largesse regard the regime positively and express satisfaction with the political conditions in the country despite the lack of human rights. Members of the educated elite and government officials continue to benefit substantially from the regime and its policies. The number of millionaires has grown substantially during the last few years. Both the less well educated and those with considerable formal training are benefitting either directly or indirectly from the policies of the current Iranian regime and do not appear eager to push for change. Even though many Iranians would apparently like to see improved relations with the U.S., they do not seem ready to forego their advantages for formal U.S. recognition. This reality must be incorporated into the U.S. policy toward Iran. The behavior of U.S. government officials implies that Iranian culture is passй, that the Government of Iran has no credibility whatsoever. They impose sanctions on Iran that greatly hinder or totally prevent the creation of prosperity on a broader scale than is now possible.. They continue to define democracy in Western terms and decry any institutions that appear unacceptable to the West. The behavior of diplomats from both countries reflects a lack of awareness of a move away from postmodernism toward a new era of interaction and diplomacy: trans-modernism. This new era involves a large number of independent social variables interacting with each other in a variety of ways. The trans-modern world of today presents sometimes unthinkable contradictions as its most profound reality. Political and ethical theories appear somewhat outdated since they can no longer churn out neatly packaged concepts appropriate to today’s world and/or the world that is emerging. Trans-modernism suggests the realization that culture can no longer be used as the matrix to settle differences; no one culture is superior to another. Success in trans-modern diplomacy is defined in terms of transmissibility and interaction rather than irrecoverability and the lack of interaction. This approach to diplomacy does not permit representatives of Western cultures to position traditional cultures as primitive or underdeveloped, nor does it allow the more traditional cultures to view Western cultures as unworthy. Trans-modernism encourages intercultural dialogue and the mutual liberation of cultures. It encourages interaction within a global framework. It embraces plurality and thinks in terms of “beyond” the current situation or dialogue. It must involve more than a mere dialogue between learned experts or seasoned diplomats. It requires the negation of any negativity and the affirmation of national and international legacies.


A Glimpse at U.S. and Iranian Foreign Policy Initiatives


To date, the diplomatic initiatives undertaken by both the United States and Iran to date have proved ineffective. The United States imposed sanctions on Iran after the Islamic Revolution and added further sanctions after the discovery of Iran’s nuclear weapons program. The embargo on Iran includes sanctions against companies that do business with Iran, a ban on practically all imports from Iran, sanctions on Iranian financial institutions and nearly a total ban on the sale of aircraft or repair parts to Iranian aviation companies. The U.S. Treasury Department can grant exceptions and does so, for example, in the case of pharmaceuticals.

Laicie Olson, Senior Policy Analyst at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation in Washington, D.C., contended in a short article published in the “East Texas Review” on January 7, 2011, that the legislation approved by the U.S. House of Representatives to introduce sanctions against foreign companies that provide Iran with gasoline would not be effective. She stated that Iran had increased its refining capacity and had adopted an effective rationing program, reducing the possibility of inflicting hardship on the Government of Iran while amplifying the hardship on the majority of Iranians. She also felt that sanctions would take away Iranian government attention from Iran’s “real” problems: freedom of speech and other rights. In her opinion, sanctions should be confined to groups like the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (Pasdaran) so that Iranians interested in dialoguing with the U.S. would not get the impression that the U.S. was no longer interested in participating in a dialogue. (“Iran Sanctions are Counterproductive,” East Texas Review , January 7, 2010 and put online by The Center for Arms Control and Non Proliferation) (http://armscontrolcenter.org/policy/iran/articles/iran_sanctions_are_counterproductive)

Ms Olson’s recommendation that sanctions be restricted to groups like the Pasdaran or guards appears naпve since the Pasdaran wields influence in almost every sphere of Iranian political life. The group controls media outlets, provides training programs that encourage loyalty to the regime and makes every effort to ensure its own institutional credibility. Any sanctions against the Pasdaran would be considered sanctions against the government itself.

President George W. Bush pronounced Iran a part of the “axis of evil” but sought Iran’s support when forming the first provisional Karzai government in Afghanistan as well as when he wanted to calm the aggressive Iraqi mullah Moqtada al-Sadr and his militia. He also threatened occasionally to bomb Iran’s nuclear installations and designated Britain, France and Germany to negotiate with Iran on behalf of the United States in its effort to convince Iran to stop enriching uranium. None of his moves, however, seemed to deter Iran in the pursuit of its nuclear and missile programs. As pointed out by Edward N. Luttwak in an article published in “The Wall Street Journal” on August 12, 2009 and entitled “Why U.S. Diplomacy Will Fail With Iran”, the Iranian regime halted its nuclear weapons program temporarily when it thought the U.S. might attack Iran after the destruction of the Saddam Hussein government but resumed the program when it saw the U.S. was totally occupied in Iraq and no longer feared a U.S. invasion. (www.irannewsdigest.com/2009/08/12/page/2)

During the 2008 presidential campaign President Obama promised to talk with Iranian officials without pre-conditions. His offer has essentially been rejected. In his Cairo speech, he appeared to be apologetic for the past behavior of the U.S., an approach which Iranian officials could perceive as a weakness or an attempt to play on their emotions. Neither approach is likely to be effective. Iranians are masters at detecting policy weaknesses and ways of manipulating their opponents. Iran’s diplomatic initiatives related to the United States appear to have been few and relatively unorganized over the past decades. One such attempt occurred in New York in 2010. Diplomats from both the U.S. and Iran met secretly at the United Nations Headquarters in New York to pursue the possibility of establishing “covert communication” between the two countries. Perhaps the secret talks continue, but formal diplomatic relations have still not been established.


Recent U.S. Foreign-Policy Initiatives Toward Iran


Despite the failures of previous U.S. policy initiatives toward Iran, additional diplomatic attempts reflective of essentially the same world views and assumptions continue to be formulated. A number of these attempts have merit, but too often, they appear to be mere extensions of what has already been tried without success.

To illustrate, in 2008 the Council on Foreign Relations issued a volume titled Restoring the Balance: A Middle East Strategy for the Next President. In chapter 3 of that volume, Suzanne Maloney and Ray Takeyh focused on Iran. The chapter was entitled “Pathway to Coexistence: A New U.S. Policy toward Iran” and proposed a reevaluation of U.S. policy toward Iran and a strong effort to engage the U.S.’s “most enduring Middle East foe”. It contained the following suggestions:

1. Multi-track, delinked negotiations on these important issues: the restoration of diplomatic relationships; the nuclear issue; security in the Persian Gulf and Iraq; and, broader regional issues;

2. The appointment of a coordinator for Iran policy within the Department of State;

3. The normalization of low-level diplomatic relations;

4. The treatment of the Iranian state as a unitary actor . (www.brookings.edu/papers/2008/12_iran_maloney.aspx)

The suggestions fail to take into account the neo-conservative philosophy currently dominant in Iran and concentrate on structure and procedure rather than the transmodern concepts of integration and positivism. They do not take into account Iran’s multi-faceted culture. If implemented, this initiative with its various suggestions would be destined for the same failure as previous attempts at establishing even a basic relationship with Iran.

In 2009, the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. published a book entitled Which Path To Persia? Options For A New American Strategy Toward Iran. The authors considered several U.S. options related to Iran and discussed those options in chapters entitled: Dissuading Tehran: The Diplomatic Options; Disarming Tehran: The Military Options; Toppling Tehran: Regime Change; and, Deterring Tehran: Containment. After presenting the various options, the group of scholars/authors makes this statement: None of the policy options toward Iran have a high likelihood of succeeding, even as their proponents would define success. None is likely to protect all of America’s national interests at low cost and with minimal risks. As should be apparent by this point, all of them are less than ideal solutions to the problems Iran poses. Indeed, one of the reasons that the Iran debate is so contentious and intractable is that there is no obviously right course of action. Instead, policymakers must choose the least bad from among a range of unpalatable alternatives. (Page 201, Conclusion, The Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Bookings Institution, Analysis Paper Number 20, June 2009)

Once again, the group of theoreticians failed to base its considerations and conclusions on the emerging trans-modern approach with its emphasis on integration, positive outlook and adaptability. The attitude toward Iran and the possible establishment of a relationship was negative. The diplomatic option suggested was “the least bad from among” negative alternatives.

President Obama has several times since his election expressed a willingness to enter into a direct dialogue with Iran, but the substance of any possible dialogue remains a mystery. Threats of continued sanctions can be heard simultaneously with offers to engage in discussions. Even what would initially appear to be a willingness to enter into positive interaction is accompanied with negativity and threats.


A Possible New Approach to Iran


The Government of Iran continues not only to rail against the “Great Satan” but also to work diligently to defeat it wherever and whenever possible. Despite the vitriol consistently voiced by Iran against the United States, the Iranian people remain quite pro-American. If only that cordial attitude of many Iranians toward the United States could be translated into a formal country-to-country relationship, the Islamic Republic could possibly be encouraged to reduce the rhetoric and begin the process of integrating with the United States to the benefit of both countries. Perhaps a trans-modern diplomatic approach by the United States to Iran could ease the tension and begin the process of establishing a much-needed relationship between the two countries.

The establishment of a U.S. trans-modern policy toward Iran initially requires U.S. diplomats to embrace international diversity. In the United States, dealing with ethnic and cultural diversity has long been a challenge, but slowly the principles of diversity and equality appear to be gaining ground throughout the fifty states. U.S. officials and even average citizens who interact with representatives of other cultures successfully make diversity a part of their personae.

To avoid national and global chaos, both U.S. and Iranian leaders must believe in a positive future and exercise their belief in innovative and positive approaches to diplomacy. They should not disengage when presented with cultural differences and should easily tolerate a high level of ambiguity. In thought and action they must become what Paul H. Ray might refer to as “transmodernists”. They must attempt to create, if not an “integral culture,” at least a global or trans-modern approach to culture, emphasize personal, interactive diplomacy. Electronic approaches to diplomacy do not encourage or even permit interpersonal communication and interaction. The use of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) can prove helpful in negotiations. The alternative to an open and active approach to diplomacy will produce the “Great Divide”. (Paul H. Ray, “The Rise of Integral Culture”, July 5, 2010. (http://charlesstirton.posterous.com/?tag=transmodernism) U.S. diplomats should become acquainted with and attempt to accept what is known as the “chaos theory”. This theory acknowledges that nature and diplomacy are highly complex, and the only prediction that can be made about a negotiating session is that the session is unpredictable. The theory suggests that complex systems or series of negotiations can spontaneously create order out of chaos when the systems reaches a balancing point between stability and total deterioration; the resulting cultural form depends somewhat on the quality of the image of the future that national leaders have and the efforts resulting from that image.

Further, U.S. diplomats must, as Marc Luyckx stated as early as 1999, combine intuition, spirituality and brainwork in their thinking. Iranians thrive on all three, but Americans tend to concentrate on the brainwork, particularly when dealing with other cultures. The use of such a combination of thought ingredients helps in analysis of conflicts and areas of potential disagreement as well as the formulation of potential solutions.

The trans-modern diplomat must possess his/her own convictions but not necessarily to the exclusion of the beliefs and practices of representatives of other cultures. Too often, U.S. diplomats feign a strong confidence in nation building and democracy, while their diplomacy hints at what Iranians might tend to view as cultural and/or political imperialism. The trans-modern diplomat must engage the future as well as the past positively and make every effort toward cultural and diplomatic integration with the Iranians and representatives of other cultures with whom they interact.

Finally, U.S. diplomats should be able to critique their own traditions with the resources and concepts of their own cultural backgrounds. They must be aware of the assumptions common to their culture and use those assumptions in their critique. Self-criticism is important to the critiquing process and allows subsumed ideas about a culture to beidentified and dealt with in a logical fashion. In an article that appeared in the August 8, 2011 “Time”, Richard Haass, President of the Council on Foreign Affairs, suggests that the foreign-policy doctrine that should prove quite beneficial to the United States is that of “restoration”. The doctrine does not permit isolationism but does encourage the regaining of U.S. strength and the replenishment of economic, human and physical resources. It discourages entry into wars of choice such as the conflict in Afghanistan, but dictates an active foreign policy. Wars of necessity would be permitted. Bringing diplomacy home could greatly help the United States get its own house in order while pursuing a new, more positive Iran policy. The doctrine of “restoration” remains quite compatible with trans-modern diplomacy.

Specific recommendations for a successful trans-modern-restorative diplomatic approach to Iran include the following:

1. Become thoroughly familiar with the theory of trans-modern diplomacy and adopt its concepts for use in policy sessions.

2. Do not confuse the concept of “restoration” with imperialism.

3. Do not be surprised at the development of chaos, realizing that out of chaos often comes a positive development.

4. Be forthright in U.S. beliefs and principles while acknowledging the ideas and views of representatives of the Iranian government.

5. Enter negotiations with the anticipation of establishing diplomatic relations or at least making progress toward the establishment of relations.

6. Include intuition, spirituality and brainwork in the negotiations.

7. Look backward as well as forward. (Iranians often look back to their ancient culture for answers in negotiation dilemmas, etc.)

8. Do not be in a hurry. Let things take their course.

9. Make clear that the United States is not for isolationism and wishes to engage any and all nations in dialogue.

10. Emphasize that the United States is not an imperialist country.

11. Make every effort to integrate the points of view present at the negotiating table and use that integration for diplomatic persuasion.

12. Accept and incorporate the dichotomy of pro-U.S.- pro-Iranian government sentiment within the Iranian community and incorporate such into the U.S. policy toward Iran.




Iran is remains one of the most significant and potentially influential countries in the Middle East region. The United States cannot continue to ignore the country for a long period of time and must ultimately make every effort to engage the Government of Iran as well as the Iranian people in a positive and integrative manner. U.S. diplomats must ultimately acknowledge that the U.S. and Iran are interconnected, and only through that acknowledgement can diplomacy work to the mutual advantage of the two countries. The diplomats need to permit the Iranians to reinvent themselves as the diplomats attempt to change them-selves.

The trans-modern approach to Iran encourages teamwork, acceptance of differences and encouragement toward greater human rights and social justice without defining precisely what the rights and justice will mean in Iranian terms.

Acceptance of the restoration doctrine, acknowledgement of the intervention of the chaos theory and the application of the trans-modern diplomatic approach to Iran should enable the U.S. to view interaction with Iran realistically while providing guidelines for a positive approach to the reestablishment of formal relations.

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