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Can the U.S. and Iran Be Friends?

| September 27, 2013 | 57 Comments
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President Rouhani smiles during an interview with NBC on Wednesday. Photograph: Reuters

President Rouhani smiles during an interview with NBC on Wednesday. Photograph: Reuters


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Do Now

Can there be a breakthrough for diplomatic relations between the United States and Iran? Should the US end the sanctions against Iran if the country changes course over its nuclear program?

Introduction

Is “peace within reach” as Iran’s new President Hassan Rouhani declared at the United Nations this week? He is seen to be more moderate than the former Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and is willing to build a better relationship with the West. President Rouhani has insisted that his country’s nuclear program is for generating energy only and, as such, he has called for an end to the sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program. But the threat of Iran going nuclear presents too much of a danger to America, the Gulf States, and Israel, and thus Washington needs to be convinced that this is not happening.

The U.S. and other Western countries believe Iran is seeking to develop a weapons capability and the US has been enforcing sanctions on Iran for decades – first imposed in 1979, after the hostage crisis and strengthened in 1984 after the invasion of Iran by Iraq. Embargoes were placed on oil exports and Iran was blocked from international banking networks, penalties which have contributed to escalating inflation and unemployment.

Leslie Gelb of the Council on Foreign Relations says this opportunity to seek conciliatory talks with Rouhani may be the last chance for the US and Iran to try diplomacy. In the Daily Beast he supports a compromise by permitting limited uranium enrichment in Iran, backed by inspection agreements.

President Rouhani has indicated cooperation and compromise by reiterating the Ayatollah’s pledge that Iran would not deploy nuclear weapons, by releasing several regime critics from jail, and by backing the surrender of chemical weapons in Syria. He is open to talks as ordinary Iranians do not want war. Instead, they want an end to sanctions and economic suffering.

But concrete actions are needed from Iran to convince America and the UN of his words and deep suspicions remain on both sides. “I bring peace and friendship from Iranians to Americans,” Rouhani said.

Can diplomacy make this happen?

Resource

NPR Morning Edition segment Kerry Vows To Keep Assessing Iran’s Nuclear Intentions – Sept 27, 2013
Secretary of State Kerry and his counterparts from Britain, France, Russia, China and the European Union met with Iran’s foreign minister at the United Nations on Thursday. They left the meeting praising Iran’s new tone, but saying there is a lot of work to be done in dealing with Iran’s suspect nuclear program. The talks resume in Geneva in mid-October.


To respond to the Do Now, you can comment below or tweet your response. Be sure to begin your tweet with @KQEDedspace and end it with #DoNowIran

For more info on how to use Twitter, click here.

We encourage students to reply to other people’s tweets to foster more of a conversation. Also, if students tweet their personal opinions, ask them to support their ideas with links to interesting/credible articles online (adding a nice research component) or retweet other people’s ideas that they agree/disagree/find amusing. We also value student-produced media linked to their tweets like memes or more extensive blog posts to represent their ideas. Of course, do as you can… and any contribution is most welcomed.


More Resources

KQED Forum episode Openings for Diplomacy With Iran? – Sept. 27, 2013
Iran’s new president, Hassan Rouhani delivered a message of tolerance to the United Nations this week. He said the United States and Iran can “manage our difference” and that “peace is within reach,” while calling the sanctions against his country over its nuclear program a form of violence. We discuss the possibilities for diplomacy with President Rouhani and the nuclear future of Iran.

PBS NewsHour video How Should the U.S. Proceed With Iran Diplomacy? – Sept. 26, 2013
Top officials from the U.S. and Iran met for the first time in 30 years. How serious is Iran about making a deal with the international community on their nuclear program? Judy Woodruff talks to Flynt Leverett of Penn State University, Suzanne Maloney of Brookings Institution and former CIA case officer Reuel Marc Gerecht.

New York Times postHandshake With Iran Might Say Much More – Sept. 25, 2013
Includes an interactive timeline on Iran’s nuclear program.
It has become the diplomatic big tease of the year, a rumored geopolitical rendezvous that, if not quite as momentous as Nixon and Mao in 1972, would still rank as a landmark encounter for two countries that have been estranged for more than three decades.

Huff Post World post Iran’s Rouhani Wants Nuclear Deal Without Conflict In ‘New Era’ – Sept. 27, 2013
Includes a video segment entitled “Rouhani’s Private Dinner (Behind the Scenes)
You need not possess a doctorate in diplomacy to summon skepticism for Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s rhetorical peace campaign. Whatever his arrival on the world stage represents, whatever his genuine personal inclinations, he operates within an autocratic system ruled by an insular clique that justifies mass human rights abuses in the name of religious dogma.



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Category: Do Now, Do Now: Government and Civics

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About the Author ()

Maxine Einhorn is from London and has lived in the Bay Area for 12 years. She has worked in adult education in London,UK, for over twenty years as a tenured instructor and department manager. She has an MA in Film and TV from University of London and has taught, moderated and appraised academic work in film studies and media literacy at undergraduate and college level. She runs the ESL/ Post Secondary project at KQED which offers media-rich resources for and created by ESL educators.
  • Zach M

    I believe Iran and America should be friends because Iran has a lot of power. Although Iran has power to go nuclear, America needs to be allies with Iran because of this power. America also needs to understand that Iran is under new arms. With Iran’s new president, anything can happen.

  • Karli N

    I believe that us being Americans, we should give Iran a chance to prove that they are worthy of being “friends” with the US. If proven that we can trust Iran, I do believe that they should be able to be friends with the US. Like the president of Iran said, we don’t want war and we would rather have friends than enemies.

  • Dylan

    Why would we let them continue to produce uranium? With nuclear weapons there can be no compromise. Why should the U.S. trust this new man? Has he done anything to earn our trust? Why will this man be any different than Ahmadinejad? There will never be an agreement until they stop making weapons. Why would they keep building the weapons if they don’t plan to use them? What about our allies in Israel? How would they feel if we started allying ourselves with Iran? If we act diplomatically with Iran we are giving freedom and our democratic allies in the Middle East “the finger”.
    Dylan L

    • Preston K.

      I agree with what you are saying. Not everybody can be satisfied. I think we have to look at what will happen to our other allies if we become allies with Iran.

  • Lexi Liberty

    I believe that it is still difficult to trust Iran after everything our country has been through with them. It does not make sense to all of a sudden want to make peace with us. I think Iran has something to hide. The U.S. should be careful and do more “research” with this whole situation before making a decision. -Lexi L

  • Randall

    Randall P.
    You know I do not like the theory of war but, I do not trust this president, but I do not like the way they are responding to us. I don’t think they will nuke us. Just all talk. It is just like North Korea. Our military will not stand for this, and we will win no doubt.
    On the the other hand I don’t think America and iran should ever be together

  • Abby L

    Yes, I believe we should be friends with Iran but do we really trust Iran? we should also be careful because we don’t know what Iran could hide from us.

  • Tyson K

    I do not believe this man or his ideas. How do we know he wont just end up like that last leader of Iran? As long as they have nuclear weapons, we will never be at peace with them. Our allies in the middle east would not appreciate it. -Tyson K.

  • Andrew Johnson

    The United States should not be allies with Iran. Due to Iran’s alleged and rumored nuclear weapon’s program, and the country’s tumultuous history with the the United States, the US government and foreign policy should be aware of that. These weapons, if they are real, could be used against the country if the United States does anything that would provoke Iran, such as giving aid and support to rival countries, like Israel. Iran could also attack the allies of America, such as the United Kingdom and Canada.

    • Alex P

      I agree with you, but in addition to not being allies with Iran should be based on the fact that is protects the American people. If not being allies with Iran will protect the American people, then that’s what should happen.

  • Brandon C

    “One can not simultaneously prevent and prepare for war”
    -Albert Einstein
    The insistence that the Iranians are only trying to further their nuclear program in order to produce power is somewhat ridiculous. As a part of one the oil capitals of the world, there are many alternatives to nuclear energy. If Iran wants to be friends with the US the most “concrete” action they could possibly take is the discontinuation of their research. Maybe we could allow them to begin a nuclear energy program after years of inaction and harmlessness on Rouhani’s part, but only after.

  • davidjenny

    I am skeptical of Iran’s new President. President Rouhani. The statement in the paragraph “Rouhani insisted that his country’s nuclear program is for generating energy only and, as such, he has called for an end to the sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program” rings false to me. I don’t think it is out of the question to keep an eye on their nuclear program decisions, given our past between our two countries. As skeptical as I am just a eleventh grader in Utah and all I can do is hope for the best.

  • Abigail Yager

    I don’t trust this guy or what he is saying. I think its going to be really hard for us to ever trust them because of all of the attacks and problems we have with them. They have also hated Americans and the US. They have preformed countless terrorists attacks on us, first of all why should we trust them and second of all why would they all of a sudden want to be buddy-buddy with us? I feel like they are up to something, I don’t trust that country at all, they have hurt us too many times.

  • Victor Herrera

    Yes there can be diplomatic relationship between the Us and IranI think order for the Us to end the band of nuclear program if Iran agree to let the Us search and look for nuclear weapons every month or what ever the Us decides is a good comprimise .

  • Amanda Snyder

    I don’t think that we should continue to let them produce these things. This type of thing has been going on since 1979 up to current 2013. And they will not stop. They want to continue building these weapons. That reminds me of Japan when the nuclear weapons were used against them and wiped everything out. I don’t want that to happen to us. And it doesn’t matter who is in office at the time, they still have the same plan, and they want to go through with that plan.

    • Preston K.

      I couldn’t agree more. I feel the same would happen with us, I would like to give Iran a chance but we can’t take the risk. Its almost impossible to change a whole countries point of view over night even if they have a new president. Who’s to say they won’t go behind the policy if one was made.

  • Abbie M.

    Because Iran is so heavily involved in the Syrian conflict and the new president is not well known in the west, it hard to say what the US and UN should or shouldn’t do. It is a bit unnerving knowing that Iran has nuclear power stores, regardless for what it is being used for. This article helps explain the tricky situation we are faced with, but also explores Iran’s seeming sincerity. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/21/world/middleeast/prime-minister-netanyahu-on-iranian-president-rouhani.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

  • Nick M

    Iran’s president Rouhani promised in an interview with NBC that Iran will never develop nuclear weapons: “We are one of the countries of this region which is asking for peace and stability and the elimination of all weapons of mass destruction in the entire region.” It will be difficult to trust Rouhani based on our history with Iran and his relatively recent entrance into office, we have no way of knowing whether he can hold true to his word. It is important for us to take baby steps in mending our relationship with Iran. While it won’t be easy, if Iran is true to their word, mending that relationship could be a major step in improving the situation in the Middle East. http://worldnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/09/18/20561148-irans-president-rouhani-we-will-never-develop-nuclear-weapons?lite

  • Chandler Ewart

    Honestly, why should we have weapons and not lets other countries? That does not seem logical at all. It makes us sound like bullies who get to call all the shots. In my opinion, just because America thinks they are right about everything, doesn’t give us the right to tell others they can’t produce uranium. It makes no sense that we can feel protected and safe with our WMD stowed away while other countries tremble in fear with nothing.

  • Vincent costello

    no they probably would’nt get along because of the hatred towards eachother.
    it may be possible to end sanctions against iran but I would hope that they would have an extended amount of time so that iran can prove that they will actually end their nuclear program.

  • Jared

    @KQEDEdspace We can’t be fighting over things in the past. If we did this, we wouldn’t be talking to the UK, we wouldn’t be talking to Japan, we wouldn’t be talking to almost anyone except Canada. How is this any different? Some ask how we can trust the new guy. What has he done so we can trust him? I ask, what has he done to make you not trust him? The fact that he is Iranian? Does that make everyone from Iran a nuclear terrorist, per say? Do we not state in our government that everyone is innocent until proven guilty? #DoNowIran #eng1010 #MHAcad

  • sean.leonard

    I believe this is an excellent opportunity for both Iran & America. If we do make peace it will be a huge milestone for better realtions in the middle east. However, the threat of nukes going rouge is a real one.
    One possible solution is that we simply monitor their nuke work extensively. If they truly only use it for energy, they shouldn’t be opposed to it because they have nothing to hide. If they do refuse, we may or may not need to do it stealthily.
    Just a thought. Peace should be worth almost any cost in the long run.

  • Alex M

    Peace could be achieved, but trust needs to be earned from both sides first. It’s crucial that we learn more about this new President before peace can really happen. It seems that no one in Iran wants war, but gradual steps still need to be taken towards any form of diplomacy.

    • Nettie

      I agree that our countries will come together eventually but pushing the issue to fast may cause more harm than good.

  • Guest

    The U.S. government should hear Iran’s side of the nuclear program. There should be talk as to how Iran will limit their nuclear use because chances are low that they will stop altogether. The president seems to be willing to make a change. However, the U.S. should be cautious as the supreme leader behind the president is the one who let the governments of Iran and the U.S. drift the past decade. He is using the president as his puppet. Not all of this is a bad thing though as the government of Iran does want to make a change now and atone for it’s previous mistakes.
    -Nikki J.

  • Nikki J.

    The U.S. government should hear Iran’s side of the nuclear program. There should be talk as to how Iran will limit their nuclear use because chances are low that they will stop altogether. The president seems to be willing to make a change. However, the U.S. should be cautious as the supreme leader behind the president is the one who let the governments of Iran and the U.S. drift the past decade. He is using the president as his puppet. Not all of this is a bad thing though as the government of Iran does want to make a change now and atone for it’s previous mistakes.
    -Nikki J.

  • Preston K.

    The real question here is when will every other country get a nuclear energy program for “energy”. Iran’s government cant even take care of their own citizens for example the Taliban. Further more, how can we even keep track of everything nuclear in that country. Personally I wouldn’t trust Iran any farther than I could throw them. Just because they have a new president doesn’t mean his views have changed and who’s to say we won’t have another world war.

  • Tiffany Young

    I think this would be a good opportunity for America and Iran to build a better relationship. Sure, it may be dangerous to trust Iran, but if we don’t put in the effort to even TRY to trust them, how would you know if they are telling the truth or not? Better an acquaintance than an enemy.

    • Errol Kelsey III

      Most Iranians are pro-American, and want America and Iran to have stronger ties. An attack on Iran by the United States would turn the young people of Iran against America for the considerable future.A war will benefit neither America nor Iran.By forming a new relationship with the Islamic Republic of Iran, America will improve its image in the Muslim world and be able to take advantage of a growing Muslim market in the world economy.And over time, the young people of Iran will reform their country and make it more tolerant and democratic.

  • Brooke P.

    I think if Iran can give us proof and a good reason to believe them, then we could be friends We should be friends with them regardless. Just talk it out and figure out the problem. Lot the nuclear energy come later. Maybe if we befriended them we could go to personally and see what’s going on, then we would be able/not able to believe him.

  • Errol Kelsey III

    Right now, U.S.-Iranian relations are upside down. America and Iran are staring each other down from two different ends of the world. And their dysfunctional relationship is causing problems for the whole world. The rational course of action in this crisis is coming together around common objectives and interests to talk and settle differences.

    • Nettie

      I agree that Iran and the US must come together to figure out all of these issues. If they are not addressed and not taken care of we just cause more problems.

  • Jayson McGaughy

    I believe that America should go over there and look at least, Send troops to make sure that everything is okay. The minute we turn our back and trust the new leader of Iran is a minute to late. Iran has maintained that its nuclear program is aimed only at generating electricity. That indicates that they have nuclear power right there! http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2013/09/five-hopeful-signs-of-a-possible-improvement-in-the-u-s-iran-relationship/

  • Fernando Gonzalez

    I think that there could peace between the U.S and Iran. I know people think that we shouldn’t trust him but the man is open to talk and most of the Iranians want and end to all of the sanctions and economic suffering. Who knows what the two countries could achieve later on in the future. All the U.S. has to do is try to have peace talks and if it doesn’t work out then it doesn’t work out, but at least try.

    Also think about Nixon when he went to China. China was a Rival of the U.S. since the start of the cold war and Nixon did what a lot of people thought it was impossible, he made a “journey of peace” and built a constructive and peaceful relation with PRC.

    Now China has been transformed from an enemy into a major trading partner of the U.S.

    • Jayson McGaughy

      I really like your points that you hit in your response. It makes great sense and I see where you are coming from. All I’m saying is they have the nuclear power, That’s a known fact, It just scares me a little as an American knowing that Iran has it, What if powers lands in the wrong hands trying to trust them? How would The U.S. deal?

      • Fernando Gonzalez

        Yeah you’re right but even if they do have NW doesn’t mean they’re going to use them. They know better then to mess with thew U.S.

    • Jalen Castrejon

      Great Points.

  • Deja Gray

    I feel like Iran needs to be less hostile so that a friendship can be formed. Iran is dealing with nuclear weapons, and we’re just trying to make peace. In order for a friendship to be formed, Iran needs to stop being so defensive. Sure they have a new leader, but that doesn’t mean things will change for the better. Hassan Rouhani could be just as bad as their previous leader, or even worse. Until Iran gives the U.S. a reason to trust them, or befriend them other than out of fear, I believe the U.S. should stop making an effort to make peace, we should just leave them alone.

  • Jalen Castrejon

    Iran’s foreign minister,Jawad Zarif,says Iran is “making sure that there is no concern at the international level that Iran’s nuclear program is anything but peaceful.” Iran should not be trusted on any issues regarding international diplomacy.The United states should not be involved them or buy any of there “peaceful” accusations since the events of the Hostage Crisis of 1979 when they took 52 U.S. diplomats hostage for 444 days.I get the feeling that Iran is jealous of the U.S. and our military power considering we hold 50% of all military power in the world. It would only make since for Iran to create nuclear weapons and threaten us.

    http://www.npr.org/2013/09/27/226716506/kerry-to-continue-looking-into-irans-nuclear-intentions

  • Markus

    I feel as if our only option is to take the chance and move forward. We finally have an Iranian leader who cares for public opinion. As any leader would Hassan Rouhani will focus on special interests such as Syria and nuclear programs but is also interested in the general welfare of his people. To be honest its inevitable that Iran will have a nuclear program its has been a pinpoint of there government for the last 20 years. The Only Question Is if we Take our chance to influence it.

  • Kaitlyn Bartling

    I really don’t have an opinion because there is always a possibility of someone changing. However, it is not definite.

  • Michelle Dwyer

    I don’t think that Iran should use chemical weapons. Chemical wepons are very dangerous.

  • Alvina Nguyen

    I think the only possibility for Iran and the US to be friends is by having Iran be less hostile. They need to be able to prove that they trustworthy to be trusted with anything. If Iran starts the nuclear program, it’s going to be an extremely large deal. What if they use it to create nuclear weapons ? We could never know what their true intentions are. Therefore I believe that if we want a relationship with Iran, we have to be able to monitor them at all times.

    • meaza

      If we monitor them all the time they would not be happy with it and they would not value any kind of relationship with the United States.

  • Cheyenne Hair

    Yes, I think it is possible for U.S. and Iran to be “friends,” but not in the way they are asking for. The U.S. should not end the sanctions against Iran. Rouhani may really be wanting peace with the U.S., but he can’t really know that his people are going to follow him on that. Like it says in the article “But the threat of Iran going nuclear presents too much of a danger to America, the Gulf States, and Israel, and thus Washington needs to be convinced that this is not happening.” We can’t put our people and so many others lives at risk so easily.

    • Alex P

      You said it much better than I could! I also think it’s possible for the Unite States and Iran to be civil, but in the end we need to do what will protect and save the American people.

  • meaza

    For countries to be friends there has to be a mutual interests and they have to build trust. so any country can be friend with any other country.

    • Nettie

      Although this is true, there are many issues from the past that both countries must reflect on. Both need to from trust to form a relationship.

  • Quincie Bean

    It is doubtful that the relations should improve. Iran first needs to demonstrate that they are dropping their nuclear ambitions, and I doubt that will happen. We should only relax sanctions if and only if there is 100% certainty that they have actually stopped pursuing nuclear weapons.

  • Nettie

    I don’t agree with giving this new man our country’s full trust but we should not back away from some type of peace agreement. Our country has reason to have its guard up and be very cautious in actions we take, but we can not punish Iran for what the past people have done. Eventually we will have to make sometime of an agreement not to hate each other, so why not start early and form an alliance rather than another enemy.

  • Alex P

    I think that United States needs to what’s best for its country and its people. I don’t know if we will ever be allies with Iran, however I think that a agreement on truce could be within reach.
    Alex P

  • Avisha sabaghian

    There is no confirmed evidence that Iran is producing nuclear weapons and in fact it is not. 1. They do not have the technology require 2. The US would know for sure as Nuclear weapons aren’t the easiest things to hide. Also Iran has never waged a war against a country, in fact it has participated in no wars compared to the US or Israel. The Iranian hostility towards the US is more based on words than actions. On the other Israel is a great ally of the US while producing nuclear weapons without having signed the internationally required documents in regards to rights and procedures. The only obstacle between Iran and the US is US-Israeli relations as Israel and Iran or long-term religious and political enemies.

  • Vincent costello

    i disagree about becoming friends because if we do happen to become friends with iran there might still be people in both the U.S. and Iran that will disagree and do something stupid and cause the U.S. & Iran to have hatred towards eachother.

  • Austyn Mikolon

    I think that the US and Iran can be friends and I also think that the US should end the sanctions against Iran. If the US ends that sanction in Iran then it will benefit both of us. Plus we could mend the relationship with Iran and on day be friends.

  • Guest

    I don’t think that school lunches are the reason that kids are getting obese. It’s what they are eating outside of school that are making them obese. They see signs like “$1 McChicken” versus a “$3.99 Salad”, of course they would choose the $1 McChicken, because it’s cheaper; it tastes better as well. Some of the kids want to eat healthy and to eat the salad, but it’s hard to generate that income to support healthy eating for even the rest of the year. The school lunches that I’ve had looked really healthy; they always had a side of a fruit and a bag of carrots, and there was always a main meal, and a carton of milk. Plenty of nutrients, not fats, so it’s hard to believe that school lunches are the reason for obesity.

  • Jae Hun

    I think that as long as Iran has nuclear weapons and has power towards the weapons, we can’t become friends. Eventually, I hope we could walk towards peace agreements.

  • ashkan

    hope not,i don’t wanna see Taco Hell and McDonald shit,Walmart crap in my homeland but they can have our Ayatollas for free if they would like to,nobody cares.