Perspective from Tehran: A Young Iranian on the Nuclear Talks, Written by Brenna Gautam

Written by Brenna Gautam

As an American college student, I have followed the Iran negotiations as a removed observer. Reading political blogs and browsing IAEA reports is about as close to the reality of the negotiations themselves as I can get from my cozy university in northern Indiana.

I’ve watched from afar as reports on the progress of diplomacy with Iran become more and more pessimistic, as my congressmen grow more and more impatient with the lack of a comprehensive deal. I’ve listened as they’ve given statements on the dangers and risks of extending the agreement deadline while ignoring the benefits that come with continued negotiations. Diplomacy builds trust and strengthens confidence. Dialogue brings people together. So why would walking away from the negotiating table be in anyone’s interest?

Like so many of my peers, I suffer from a burning desire to create positive change in the world combined with a feeling of helplessness in the face of US foreign policymakers’ decisions. I know that I am only one student, but I’ve often found myself wishing that I could send a message to the negotiating team, to my government officials, and most importantly to Iran itself.

So I decided to reach out to Iran.

Meet Mehdi Dehnavi, a young academic from Tehran. Thanks to the Internet, I was able to connect with Mehdi through an online networking website and get a sense of a young Iranian’s perspective on the negotiation extension. I asked Mehdi to share some of his thoughts regarding the extension, and this is the message he sent in reply:

“It is important to look at Iran’s history before assessing its present. After the Iranian revolution and the revolutionary discourse, development windows in Iran closed. The Iranians did not want this; they just did not want to be dependent. Iraq, with the help and green light of outside powers, attacked Iran, and was met with resistance. Much of this resistance was based upon national dignity.

We Iranians stand against excessive violence. This is a lesson from history and from Iran’s national character. National memory of the oil industry conflict in 1953 has tried to break Iran, but we are still alive. As an Iranian, I see that my country must maintain rational and respectful relationships with others, and I call on other countries to do the same. We know that 2014 is not 1953, but we do not see a big difference in the approach of the West.

Yet there is no doubt in our minds that the world needs stability and peace more than anything else.

An Iranian nuclear challenge with the West would be useless. Who would create such a challenge? Iran is a wise and pragmatic country. Why would we want our costs to increase from sanctions? For which purpose: to defend or attack?

If our purpose were to attack, I would ask: attack whom? Practically, unlike the great powers of today, Iran has not invaded another country for at least the past 100 years. And despite the fact that nuclear powers like the United States have threatened to nuke us, we are against war.

Some worry that we would create a nuclear challenge to defend ourselves, from a power like Israel. But this is nothing more than chatter. Iran is a large and powerful country in the Middle East and even without nuclear capabilities it could enact rapid and devastating retaliation upon an attacker. For this reason, I do not believe Israel would attack Iran. Arabs also do not have a reason for a military attack on Iran. We don’t need nuclear weapons for defense or for attack.

With no deal reached yesterday, the governments of Iran and America are both in very pessimistic mindsets, afraid of a new Cold War. But the balance here is not dependent on the weapons; rather, the future of the negotiations is dependent on rationality and respect. We do not need bombs. Peace is the mother of all good.”

-Mehdi Dehvani, Malek Ashtar University (MUT) in Tehran

I am an American student. I do not share Mehdi’s national history, I do not speak his mother tongue, and I do not live under the economic sanctions he endures. Yet we are both two young people who want the same fundamental things: rationality, respect, stability and peace.

I hope that our respective governments can similarly find common ground as we enter into another round of negotiations.

Brenna Gautam was an intern with the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation in the Summer of 2014. She attends the University of Notre Dame.