Photo Credit: Press TV
Iran satellite launch station.

A well-known Iranian American advocate is wagging his finger at the United States for failing to show proper respect for and grant equal footing to the Islamic Republic of Iran.

If he weren’t someone regularly cited in the mainstream media and appearing regularly on national newscasts, the piece published recently by the president of the National Iranian-American Council, Trita Parsi, could be ignored.


However, Parsi has a PhD from Johns Hopkins’ International Studies School. He has appeared on major media outlets such as CNN, the BBC, NPR and Al Jazeera. He has published in the New York Times, the Financial Times, the Los Angeles Times and the Wall Street Journal.

In addition to garnering key air and print time, Parsi’s organization boasts some major players on its advisory board. There are several former U.S. Ambassadors (Thomas Pickering and John Limbert) as well as a current member of Congress (Wayne Gilchrist (D-MD) and a former member (Jim Moody (D-WI). As such, his analysis of the ongoing (and going and going) nuclear talks between Iran and the P5 + 1, including the U.S, is worth noting.

In an article he posted on July 2, “Dignity: the Hidden Factor in the Iran Nuclear Talks,” Parsi lectures the U.S. and its allies for failing to recognize that dignity – to wit, treating Iran as a full and equal partner, on equal standing and with equal claims to trust  – is imperative.

Parsi points out numerous ways in which Iran is not being treated in such a way as to allow it to be at the table and to negotiate with dignity.

While Parsi still thinks the deal between Iran and the P5+1 is going to be consummated while the parties are in Vienna this week, he is clearly sending a signal to somebody or many people, that failing to grant Iran the dignity Parsi believe it is due could have dire consequences.

Parsi bristles at the idea that the nuclear talks are cast by Americans in terms of what Iran “will be ‘allowed’ to keep in terms of nuclear structure.” Uh uh, Parsi wags his finger. How dare the talks be presented in this way, as if Iran can be told what it can and cannot do.

Wait a minute. Isn’t that the point of these nuclear talks? The reason these talks are being held is that a nuclear Iran will be a global threat to all living things. They are indeed about Iran negotiating for the right to do certain things in exchange for the major world powers ceasing the punitive measures they have imposed on Iran for doing what it wants without regard for the safety and security of the rest of the world.

But, Parsi says, if there is any suggestion that Iran is unequal to the other parties, that could sound the death knell to the talks and any diplomacy at all. Parsi goes on to explain that the Iranian foreign minister “oftentimes refers to the other countries in the negotiations as his partners, reflecting equality.” But that isn’t how Iran is treated. How unfair!

Of course the idea that Iran should be subject to inspections by outsiders of its military sites is an outrage, and that’s obvious because no other country is burdened with such intrusiveness. Really? What other nations are threatening to exterminate another nation? What other nation has repeatedly barred inspectors from performing their assessments, after agreeing to allow them?

Parsi takes further umbrage at what he says is a change in inspections of nuclear sites as agreed to in Lausanne, Switzerland. On this point Parsi may be right that the U.S. agreed to “managed” inspections, but that is not what the American people or members of Congress are prepared to accept. The “anywhere, anytime” inspections of Iranian sites may not be palatable to the Iranians, but it is hard to imagine that Congress will cave on this even if the administration did.

But Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei told his people in late May that he would absolutely not permit inspections by outsiders of Iranian military sites or interviews with its scientists by westerners.

If the U.S. and other world powers believe there must be access by inspectors to those sites and Iran believes there cannot be access to those sites, it is hard to understand how a deal can be reached, dignity or no dignity.

Parsi gets around this problem by suggesting that Iran would be able to permit such visits, but only if they were not told they had to permit those visits. In other words, don’t make it a requirement and then there will be no affront to Iran’s dignity. Perhaps, but there will also be no way to enforce anything not stated as a requirement. And therein lies the real problem with Parsi’s dignity talk.

Parsi’s insistence on dignity is only reasonable when the party demanding dignity has never given others cause to distrust it. And if there were no reason for the western powers to distrust Iran without demanding certain conduct, these talks would not be taking place. But there is and they are. And dignity is hardly the primary stumbling block.

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Lori Lowenthal Marcus is a contributor to the A graduate of Harvard Law School, she previously practiced First Amendment law and taught in Philadelphia-area graduate and law schools. You can reach her by email: [email protected]