Iranians love to shop; Americans love to sell. / Jason Rezaian

A year ago, President Barack Obama issued a message to the people of Iran on the occasion of Nowruz, the Persian New Year. Since then, the United States' diplomatic options have dwindled dramatically. This Nowruz, there is only one way to shift gears: America needs to start selling cars to Iran.

Why stop there? If Obama truly intends to chart a new course with Tehran, we should open up trade completely. Right away.

The essential piece of the Iran "puzzle" lacking from the U.S. intelligence community's understanding of our longtime adversary is a close inspection of the national personality. We've never known how to answer the critical question what makes these people tick?

As the latest in a long line of Persian merchants, I know: Iranians are among the world's greatest shoppers.

Those of us who know Iran well understand, yet hate to admit, that the one characteristic that binds Iranians as a people is their love of commerce. And as the country becomes more urbanized, consumerism is on the rise. Since the days when it was one of the main trading posts along the ancient Silk Road, the exchange of goods has been one of the most important ways its people relate to the outside world. And they're good at it.

They are as brand-conscious as any population in the world, and since most of the fun to be had in secular societies is outlawed, shopping, eating out, and just driving around have become national pastimes.

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