Former Iran-desk State Department staffer Reza Marashi and Iran scholar Reza Sanati write that after more than 3 decades of “institutionalized enmity”, damaging myths perpetuated by both sides have “facilitated and exacerbated U.S.-Iran hostility.” The authors list five such false narratives; here’s the most damaging/alarming one:
5.) Shared Myth: The status quo U.S.-Iran cold war is sustainable.
The Reality: America’s decade-long wars in the Middle East have engendered a degree of political realism in Washington. The inconclusive nature of its combat withdrawals, the global financial crisis and the ongoing flux of the Arab Spring have pushed U.S. strategists to focus on what is viable. Still, occasional efforts at sustained diplomacy on Iran’s nuclear program by both parties have not resolved the larger political conflict. Right now, the process mostly serves to maintain the same old rivalry.
U.S. and Iranian strategies are stuck in the status quo, but the world around them is changing. From Egypt to Pakistan, longtime U.S. allies surrounding Iran are increasingly at odds with Washington, each for its own reasons. Most notably, some Israeli leaders are threatening a military conflict with Iran, a mess that the United States might have to clean up.
For Tehran, sanctions are too severe to circumvent by the old means. The U.S.-led assault on Iran’s banking infrastructure, shipping lines and oil exports has forced the Islamic Republic to create new methods of trade. And the Arab Spring is challenging U.S. and Iranian influence in the Middle East. Neither country really wants a collision—war would be disastrous for both—but that is where the status quo appears to be headed.
Myth No. 1 is wrong — Iran has repeatedly offered “major concessions” — everything short of giving up enrichment entirely. Nothing worked since the other side is not interested in resolving this standoff peacefully.
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