How to Talk to Iran
New York Times / Roger Cohen

The president is right for many reasons. The 30-year American-Iranian psychosis is a dangerous, logic-lite hangover. When Obama gathered his Iran advisers after the June election to review intelligence, the slim pickings were slim enough to prompt a presidential “That all you got?” Ignorance breeds treacherous incomprehension.

The president is right because only creative diplomacy can head off the onrushing Iranian uranium enrichment (8,000 inefficient centrifuges and counting); because closer relations with the West represent the best long-term hope for reform in Iran; because Iran is negotiating from the relative weakness of post-June-12 revolutionary disunity; and because the strong U.S. interest lies in preventing an Israeli attack on Muslim Persia. (That’s also in Israel’s interest, by the way; the Arabs are already a handful.)

There’s a lot of verbiage — some that Orwell would have seized on — in the Iranian “package,” but that’s just the way of things in Iran. Like many much-conquered countries, not least Italy, Iran loves artifice, the dressing-up of truth in elaborate layers. It will always favor ambiguity over clarity. This is a nation whose conventions include the charming ceremonial insincerity known as “taarof” (hypocrisy dressed up as flattery), and one that is no stranger to “tagieh,” which amounts to the sacrifice of truth to higher religious imperative.

These traits are worth recalling. Gary Sick, th... >>>

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