Why Can't the U.S. and Iran Seem to Negotiate?

Sohrab Ahmari dismantles a new apologia from Trita Parsi, the head of the National Iranian American Council, who has consistently extended the benefit of the doubt to the regime in Tehran and has never extended the same courtesy to the Obama Administration. Oh, and Parsi has consistently blamed the usual suspects for everything that's gone wrong in the U.S.-Iran relationship. Ahmari:

In "A Single Roll of the Dice," Trita Parsi tries to account for this failure. But rather than re-examine U.S. policy and its underlying assumptions, Mr. Parsi spends much of the book casting blame on a wide range of actors for Mr. Obama's inability to disarm the clerical regime through diplomatic means. Such blame-shifting is not surprising. The author has spent years, as president of the National Iranian American Council, advocating for engagement with Iran; he is now determined to explain away the policy's inherent flaws.

The fault lies with the country Iran has repeatedly threatened to exterminate, of course:

Predictably, Israel and American Jews with an interest in U.S. policy are subjected to the harshest criticism. Israel's perception of the Iranian threat, Mr. Parsi says, has long "resembled prophesy more than reality," impelling the Jewish state to frame its conflict with Iran's clerical regime "as one between the sole democracy in the Middle East and a theocracy that hated everything the West stood for." Mr. Parsi rejects that perception. Beneath the Iranians' viciously anti-Semitic and anti-American sloganeering, he contends, lies a legitimate demand that their "security interests and regional aspirations" be recognized. Meet the demand, he thinks, and Iran will no longer be a threat.

Israel and its allies in the U.S. were determined to prevent such an exchange of strategic respect, according to Mr. Parsi. Thus was closed a rare diplomatic opening represented by the election of an American president with a persona well suited to peacemaking and without "the baggage of previous administrations."

Ahmari forthrightly states what honest observers (including honest observers inside the Obama White House) believe to be the root of the Administration's failure to reach a breakthrough with Iran::

Mr. Obama's engagement policy failed not because of Israeli connivance or because the administration did not try hard enough. The policy failed because the Iranian regime, when confronted by its own people or by outsiders, has only one way of responding: with a truncheon.
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Jeffrey Goldberg is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and a recipient of the National Magazine Award for Reporting. He is the author of Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror. More

Before joining The Atlantic in 2007, Goldberg was a Middle East correspondent, and the Washington correspondent, for The New Yorker. He was previouslly a correspondent for The New York Times Magazine and New York magazine. He has also written for the Jewish Daily Forward and was a columnist for The Jerusalem Post.

Goldberg's book Prisoners was hailed as one of the best books of 2006 by the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Slate, The Progressive, Washingtonian magazine, and Playboy. He received the 2003 National Magazine Award for Reporting for his coverage of Islamic terrorism and the 2005 Anti-Defamation League Daniel Pearl Prize. He is also the winner of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists prize for best international investigative journalist; the Overseas Press Club award for best human-rights reporting; and the Abraham Cahan Prize in Journalism.

In 2001, Goldberg was appointed the Syrkin Fellow in Letters of the Jerusalem Foundation, and in 2002 he became a public-policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.


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