Panel Examines U.S.-Iran Relations

Posted: April 26, 2007 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Daniela Matarazzo

The First Amendment Lounge at the National Press Club was filled to capacity on Monday when members from the international and national media, Mason students and faculty and the general public listened to a panel discussion on averting armed conflict between the United States and Iran.

The event was hosted by Mason’s Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution (ICAR) and moderated by ICAR professor Richard Rubenstein.

Opening the discussion, Rubenstein pointed out that the tense relationship Iran has with the United States began in 1953, when Iranians looked to America as a friend sent to distance them from Russian and English exploitation.

“When the U.S. ended up acting much like its former exploiters, the relationship was never again the same,” said Rubenstein.

Although panelists disagreed on Iran’s decision to continue with its nuclear program or whether or not unilateral or multilateral sanctions were appropriate or effective, they did agree on two things: that the United States was not in a good position to go to war with Iran; and by engaging in diplomatic dialogue on different levels, war could potentially be prevented.

Panelist Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council, pointed out that in addition to dialogue, changing the paradigm of the balance of power that currently exists in the region into a more European model, based on collective security, would focus the countries’ interest on more productive matters than war.

“The U.S. relationship with Iran is taking place in a region where there is no security … collective security should be pursued, in all instances, through dialogue,” he said.

Another panelist, Rep. James Moran (D-Va.), did not hide his negative view of the situation and the current White House administration.

“There are not enough American people, or even congressmen who understand that we cannot go to war with Iran. They don’t even realize that Iran is not an Arab state, that it is three times larger than Iraq and has a population of over 71 million people. We do not have the capacity to engage in military action in Iran, and it would be insane for us to do so.”

Moran continued, “Besides discourse and collective security, the key forward to a more stabilized relationship with Iran is a new, more rational administration that doesn’t rely on threat in order to feel powerful. My only hope is that the Iranian people don’t judge the American people by our president and that we don’t do the same to them.”

Moran agreed with fellow panelist Rep. Wayne Gilchrest (R-MD) that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is not an ideal diplomat or leader either.

The panelists agreed that the current relationship between the United States and Iran has deteriorated to a point that military confrontation, perhaps provoked by other incidents in the Persian Gulf, now seems possible. They also believe that greater discourse, collective security and diplomacy are needed to potentially save the lives of hundreds of thousands of people.

Other panelists who participated in the discussion were Joseph Montville, chairman of the board for the Center of the Study of World Religions, Diplomacy and Conflict at Mason and Diplomat in Residence at American University; and Jake Colvin, director of USA Engage and member of the National Foreign Trade Council.

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