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Comment on the Visits to the U.S. and Iran Missions February 25, 2011
by Dana Balicki

"Speak softly and carry a big stick" is an adage often used to describe Theodore Roosevelt's brash approach to international diplomacy--funny enough, this term was also emblazoned on a plaque in Donald Rumsfeld's office as he served in George W. Bush's cabinet. This is precisely the cowboy diplomacy that we, as peacemakers, work to unravel in the media, in the public mindset and our own elected (and appointed) leadership. It is meetings such as the ones which took place last week, with the Campaign for Peace and Democracy, that create the opportunity for such outreach and impassioned conversation (not to mention some difficult questions for a certain Adviser at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations) to take place outside of the usual "choir practice." We had a productive conversation at the US Mission (not always the case) and while we were not able to get a delegation meeting at the Iranian Mission, we all felt it was important to go and try anyway; our ad hoc meeting and appeal in the Mission lobby gave more informal space to relay some of our concerns to the Iranian Mission--of which there are many. As a peace movement we must simultaneously oppose U.S. belligerence in the Middle East as well supporting human rights efforts in Iran. One of our delegates drove home the point that if we, as Americans, truly support democratic efforts in Iran than we must listen to what the pro-democracy movement leaders are asking for (hint: it doesn't involve sanctions.)

The past several decades of US involvement in Iran, as complex and tumultuous as it is, cannot be undone swiftly. There's no quick removal of the cowboy diplomacy virus. There is no reset button. It takes time and a real commitment to dialogue. Of course, it is not just simply up to the US to "do" or "undo". We certainly have to do our part--and our part as an active citizenry means visiting missions and our members of congress to let them know we are well informed, concerned about the trajectory of our country and our planet. Yes, the road to building stronger, more authentic ties between our two nations is long and arduous. Can we do it? Yes, and we need to stay committed to a process that involves holding both the US and Iran accountable.