Ambassador urges diplomacy with Iran

By Andreas Rivera, Staff Writer

Since the 1979 hostage crisis in Iran, there has been no official diplomacy between it and the United States. Ambassador William Miller said Wednesday at a Hinckley Institute of Politics forum that this must change.

Miller, a senior fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, said the first American diplomats, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, traveled to France to request aid for their struggle against the British. These diplomats would spend months in foreign lands meeting with countless people and discussing the issues, he said.

“This is the kind of diplomacy we need now,” Miller said. Miller said President Barack Obama’s intention of healing the relationship with Iran is positive.

“We have the grounds to have a renewed relationship with Iran,” he said.

Because there are so many U.S. embassies abroad and constant communication occurs between embassies and the State Department, Miller said there is a “compulsion of interaction with other nations.” However, in the case of Iran, for the past 30 years there has been nothing but hostility and isolation.

Miller served as the ambassador to Ukraine from 1993 to 1998 and served as a political officer in Iran from 1959 to 1964. As one of the first American consulates in Iran, Miller started his foreign service career in the deserts and mountains of Iran, getting to know the people and rarely spending time behind a desk.

He said this provided him with insight to their way of life. Miller advised aspiring ambassadors to use this method.

Before the 1979 crisis, Miller said the United States and Iran had a sturdy exchange of money, technology and, most importantly, students, because 95 percent of the physicists in Iran today were educated in the United States. After the revolution, all diplomacy and interactions were cut off. Miller said now is the time to renew those connections because the long isolation has created misunderstanding.

Miller said he believes the misunderstandings and controversies behind Iran’s nuclear advancement stem from our lack of diplomacy. Although intentions behind the Iranian government are shrouded in mystery, he said the best way to find out what is going on in Iran is to go there, which he said is the only thing the United States has not been doing.

“We need to be on the ground and know the situation by talking to physicists and government officials,” he said.

Even Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, said nuclear weapons are contrary to Islam. Miller said non-government organizations have conducted polls in Iran showing a 65 to 70 percent interest in renewing relations with the United States. He said the only problem is that those numbers are considerably lower in the United States.

One of the first steps, Miller said, is to start arms reduction and encourage it in all nuclear-armed nations. He also said the United States should keep renewing the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and enforce it.

Matt Owen, a sophomore in Middle Eastern studies, said he wonders how much Iran will want from the United States and how much the United States is willing to give in return.

Brad Dennis, a graduate student in Middle Eastern studies, said he agrees with Miller, but thinks the United States needs to mediate threats because the region is still dangerous.

“There are conditions that need to be set,” Dennis said.

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