An advanced degree in compromise*


by Examiner

Since President Obama’s timely New Year message to Iranians, there has been an avalanche of reports, analysis, punditry, letters and memos published in both printed and electronic media, discussing the roots and fallouts of his friendly gesture. At the two extremes are those who have found it as indicative of a “dramatic reversal in the U.S.policy toward Iran” (//, and ones who saw it as merely cosmetic (//‘shift’-under-obama-is-change-in-tact-not-policy/#comment-19). And, in between are all shades of grey. has not been immune from this (ir)rational “exuberance”. Quite a few commentaries, letters and memos have been posted and received multitude of comments - for or against. In general, these posts reflect both the writers’ worldview and aspirations, sometimes without any clear distinctions between the two.

Here, I intend to present a number of somewhat cool-headed observations and conclusions that, in my view, have not been properly discussed by other contributors to this website. My views are based on the following (not necessarily original) assumptions, each one of which the reader can question.

a. Despite the obvious conflict of interests between the U.S. and Israel vis-à-vis the Middle East, the two governments have generally acted harmoniously – in most cases, after extensive consultations, and in coordination, with each other.

b. Obama’s rapprochement with Iran has much less to do with him personally, than with the realization that the U.S. (and indirectly, Israel) can take advantage of Iran’s strategic position in the region to advance their own interests.  And, the U.S. diplomatic engagement with the IRI entails much lower cost than any other feasible option currently available to either Israel or the U.S.

c. In Iran, the role of the Executive branch (headed by the president) in the national security and foreign policy decision-making is severely limited and amounts to mere window dressing. However, hard-liners can torpedo any deal if and when they are dissatisfied.

The rational behind these assumptions is apparent to the astute reader, and needs not be repeated here. I will suffice to draw a few obvious conclusions:

a. Despite the ongoing anti-Iran rhetoric, psyops, and propaganda war emanating from the U.S., the most important lesson learned in Iraq - by the U.S. - is that it is much cheaper (in both human and material cost), and more beneficial for the U.S. interests, to reach an agreement with IRI than to pursue regime change in Iran. The bottom line is that in return for recognizing IRI, the U.S. (1), will gain a convenient and stable access to the Central Asian (not to mention Iran’s own) oil and gas fields; and (2), will be able to use Iran’s influence in both Iraq and Afghanistan to strengthen and stabilize U.S.-installed governments in those countries.

b. Obama and Netanyahu are playing a ‘good cop / bad cop’ game aimed at softening IRI’s position. Neither of them will act before receiving a ‘green light’ from the other. It is highly implausible to assume that Obama can reach an agreement with Iran at the expense of Israel.

c. It is in the interest of the American/Israeli side to negotiate and reach an agreement with the hard-linest faction of the IRI (currently represented by Ahmadinejad), as opposed to waiting for a so-called reformist to win the next election. The reason is quite obvious – as we have witnessed before - any accord with a moderate government is bound to be rejected by the hardliners, while the opposite is not true.  It may help remembering that the only meaningful and lasting agreement reached between Arabs and Israelis was signed by an ultra-hard-liner, Menachem Begin.

d. (my most seemingly haphazard conclusion): In the long run, a less-threatened IRI will be more amenable to reform; Removing sanctions helps Iran’s economic development, and consequently facilitates creation and empowerment of strong endogenous democratic forces.

* The title is borrowed from Mr. Obama’s book, Dreams from My Father.


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Eppur si muove*

by Examiner on

Dear Fish,

I am sure you noticed that I wrote ‘d’, as cautiously as I could. There, I was speculating, outside of my rational comfort zone.

What I am confident about, however, is that like any other government – along the totalitarian-to-democratic scale – the IRI does not operate in an esoterical ‘ether’ space, independent of the laws of physics. It is certainly subject to Newton’s three laws of motion. In particular, you can always apply the third law (“For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.”) to its relationship with the outside world (e.g. the U.S.).

Moreover, as I see it, the issue is not whether IRI becomes “more moderate” or “stronger”, as you put it. The question is can it not become either depending on the circumstances.

One can point to many aspects of the contemporary Iran’s domestic environment and its social dynamics - none of them consciously pre-planed, or voluntarily embraced, by the government - to foresee a shift toward moderation upon removal of the foreign threat. 

* A quote attributed to Galileo Galilei (“And yet, it does turn.”).


anonymous fish


by anonymous fish on

today still one of the most passionate speeches of all time.  it still gives me goosebumps... AND a sense of hope. 

i agree with much of what you say.  the only thing i might question is d)... IS it reasonable to expect the regime to become more moderate or will a seemingly softened stance by the US lead to a stronger IRI?



Dear Ms. Hojjat,

by Examiner on

I appreciate your tenderness!



Dear Fish,

by Examiner on

Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me.  I agree that the questions you raised are of outmost significance. That may be the reason they have been so extensively discussed on this site by commentators such as yourself. At the expense of appearing insensitive, I should admit that there is very little that I can add to what you and like-minded contributors have already covered, lest I sound like a broken record.

As a token of my appreciation, allow me to share with you my humble opinion. It’s about time that we stop telling others (Obama included) what we expect from THEM, and start thinking about what we can expect from OURSELVES. Didn’t JFK say something like that?

I hope that you kindly return the favor and comment about what I had included in my blog.



Maryam Hojjat

Good Analysis!

by Maryam Hojjat on

Thanks for your insightful obsevations from the relationship of these three countries.

Payandeh IRAN & Iranians
Down with IRI

anonymous fish

it looks good on paper

by anonymous fish on

but can it be done?  what about the equal number of people who insist that obama has insulted the iranian people by acknowledging the IRI?  they feel just as strongly that obama has deserted THEM by acknowleding the regime.  what about the people who still insist the US do something to topple the IRI?  or the people that insist that the US do nothing.  the ones who expect obama to help the people of iran versus the ones who think the US is to blame for everything.  the ones who WANT peace with the US versus the ones who chant "death to america". 

and yet everyone criticizes obama for doing the wrong thing.  damned if you do and damned if you don't.