The Foreign Service Journal - October 2017

26 OCTOBER 2017 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL leading to the overthrow of the shah, the Iranian identification of the United States as the Great Satan and, above all, the Iranian attack on the U.S. embassy in Tehran and the holding of its person- nel for 444 days (1979-1981). All of this played out as the first major U.S. foreign policy crisis to be fully televised and piped into the living rooms of every American. Over dinner, the U.S. public was treated to nightly appearances of fanatical, bearded young men in Tehran shout- ing “Death to America!” It was a very bad time to be an Iranian in the United States, as well. One Iranian friend of mine complained that his neighborhoodmechanic would not repair his car out of anger about what was happening in Iran, somy friend began to tell people he was fromBrazil. That negative view has endured, with polls today reflecting 70 percent disapproval of Iran on the part of the American public. This was also the first direct contact between the United States and political Islam, and it was not pretty. It was an inauspicious starting point for any relationship, setting the tone for the next three decades. Tehran’s approach was largely based on revolution- ary zeal, disregard for the most basic international conventions and a confidence that God’s favor rested entirely on one side. On this side of the Atlantic, most Americans remain unaware of the string of broken U.S. promises, misunderstandings and betrayals that had helped shape Iranian hostility since the 1950s. (These are cata- logued in Barbara Slavin’s masterful work, Bitter Friends, Bosom Enemies: Iran, the U.S. and the Twisted Path to Confrontation .) Despite this history, Barack Obama arrived in the White House in 2009 with a proclaimed interest in engaging with Iran as part of a restructuring of U.S. foreign policy to reduce the American footprint in the Middle East. He made no headway on this during his first term, but his second term coincided with the election of Hassan Rouhani, who had led a failed effort to engage the United States in the early 2000s. Rouhani and his foreignminister, Javad Zarif, knew the landscape intimately, and President Obama was willing to give them the one thing that they absolutely needed to proceed with negotiations: acknowledgement that after years of global sanctions, Iran would be permitted to pursue its own peace- ful nuclear program, enriching uraniumon its own soil. Negotiations began in earnest in 2013, with the United States taking the lead in partnership with a remarkable coalition, known as the P5+1: all five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (China, France, Russia, Britain and the United States) plus Germany and the European Union, which served as the host and facilitator. The talks were extremely intense and com- plex. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman, who led the U.S. team for much of the process, compared it to a Rubik’s Cube, where all the pieces had to fit together into one inter- locking whole. Secretary of State John Kerry participated actively in the negotiations, particularly in the final stages. An agreement was reached on July 14, 2015, and implementa- tion began on Jan. 16, 2016. The huge American teamfinished the marathon discussions in a state of exhaustion, but with a new set of Iranian contacts and some admiration for a mid-level state that could successfully carry out a complex, two-year negotiation while facing all the major powers of the world on the opposite side of the table. TASNIMNEWSAGENCY [CCBY4.0]/WIKIMEDIACOMMONS Supporters of presidential candidates running in Iran’s 12th presidential election took to the streets of the capital to campaign.