Monitoring press freedom and international affairs from Mid-Missouri Public Radio and the Missouri School of Journalism

Smiles of optimism, politics of caution

Congressional stranglehold has long prohibited the development of cordial relations between the U.S. and Iran. Phyllis Bennis, the director of News Internationalism Project at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, D.C., spoke about the stumbling blocks that prevented Washington from interacting with Tehran.

“It wasn’t a law,” Bennis said. “It was a commitment in Washington that was known as the ‘No Contact Rule’ — meaning that high-level White House officials could not have any contact with their Iranian counterparts. Diplomats would have to leave the room at a reception if Iranian diplomats entered the room. It was that kind of silliness resulting, of course, in a huge lack of information in Washington circles about what was happening in Iran.”

The deadlock relationship between the U.S. and Iran came to an end last month with an exchange of letters between President Barack Obama and newly elected Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. The historic exchange ultimately led to a 15-minute phone call, the first direct communication between the countries’ leaders since the 1979 Iranian Revolution.

This progress marks a positive shift in public perception of Iran, as negotiators opened the discussion on the country's nuclear program last week.

The nuclear sanctions have had devastating effects on Iran’s economic and social development. Washington’s decade-long congressional stranglehold has been regarded as politically counterproductive, and socially immoral in the sense of targeting the population, said Bennis.

With his moderate views, President Rouhani has shown that he has the ability to balance the viewpoints of hard-lining politicians with people’s expectations. This balance, especially in foreign affairs, leaves both Iran’s political players and its citizens in a state of cautious optimism.

By Clare Murphy, Christine Coester, Marina Demartini and Katy Mersmann. 

Monitoring press freedom and international affairs from Mid-Missouri Public Radio and the Missouri School of Journalism.
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