Message of Dr. Daniel Drezner to the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran

Dear Mahmoud, Got your letter today, thanks. It’s much more coherent than that letter you sent about six months ago. I like that you stress the commonalities between what Americans and Iranians want. The repeated references to the notion that, “We are all inclined towards the good, and towards extending a helping hand to one ...

By , a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and co-host of the Space the Nation podcast.

Dear Mahmoud, Got your letter today, thanks. It's much more coherent than that letter you sent about six months ago. I like that you stress the commonalities between what Americans and Iranians want. The repeated references to the notion that, "We are all inclined towards the good, and towards extending a helping hand to one another, particularly to those in need" -- very Carter-esque of you. You sum up as follows: It is possible to govern based on an approach that is distinctly different from one of coercion, force and injustice. It is possible to sincerely serve and promote common human values, and honesty and compassion. It is possible to provide welfare and prosperity without tension, threats, imposition or war. It is possible to lead the world towards the aspired perfection by adhering to unity, monotheism, morality and spirituality and drawing upon the teachings of the Divine Prophets. Then, the American people, who are God-fearing and followers of Divine religions, will overcome every difficulty. What I stated represents some of my anxieties and concerns. It's good you got that out in the open. Here are some of my anxieties and concerns -- which I'm willing to bet many Americans share: 1) You say in your letter that, "Hundreds of thousands of my Iranian compatriots are living amongst you in friendship and peace, and are contributing positively to your society." Do you remember why so many Iranians live in the United States? Do you believe that these Iranians could live peacefully under your regime in Iran? 2) You say in your letter that, "The US administration has undermined the credibility of international organizations, particularly the United Nations and its Security Council." The thing is, Mahmoud, your country is the one willfully ignoring Security Council resolutions. How could these actions do anything but erode the trust of Americans in the UN? 3) When you say that, "our nation has always extended its hand of friendship to all other nations of the world," does this include acts like the Khobar towers bombing or not? 4) You have repeatedly stated that you want a dialogue with the United States. Why, then, have you rebuffed U.S. initiatives to start face-to-face negotiations with your government? 5) You take great pains in your letter to highlight, "the ever-worsening pain and misery of the Palestinian people" and "Persistent aggressions by the Zionists are making life more and more difficult for the rightful owners of the land of Palestine." A two-part question here, Mahmoud -- a) why do you never condemn acts of Palestinian terrorism; and b) in what way would the forced migration of all Israeli Jews not constitute "the trampling of peoples? rights and the intimidation and humiliation of human beings" that you claim all Iranians abhor? 6) Gideon Rachman has a blog at the Financial Times. Let's excerpt something from a post of his: My [non-American] interviewee has a longstanding and continuing involvement in the Middle East peace process and personal knowledge of all the major protagonists.... My interlocutor has met President Ahmadi-Nejad and describes him as ?truly scary?. He adds that he is used to dealing with populist Arab leaders, ?but when you talk to them in private, they are usually quite reasonable and rational. Ahmadi-Nejad is not like that.? His impression is that Ahmadi-Nejad is now calling the shots in Iran, and has intimidated the moderates into silence: ?They are all scared of him.? He believes that Iran is currently stirring up trouble in many different areas including Lebanon, the Israeli occupied territories and Iraq. Iraq he believes is becoming the ?arena for a regional power struggle?, pitting Sunnis against Shia. Interestingly, this appears to be the reaction you provoke among Americans as well. What can you do to dissuade me and mine that you're not a little... er... touched in the head? You probably notice a theme to these questions -- in all of your letters and interactions with Americans, you seem almost as obsessed with the United States as Lars von Trier. You have not, however, done anything to assuage the fears of Americans and others about the intentions and capabilities of your country. Why are you so mute about your own nation? Write back as soon as you can!! Best wishes, Daniel Drezner

Dear Mahmoud, Got your letter today, thanks. It’s much more coherent than that letter you sent about six months ago. I like that you stress the commonalities between what Americans and Iranians want. The repeated references to the notion that, “We are all inclined towards the good, and towards extending a helping hand to one another, particularly to those in need” — very Carter-esque of you. You sum up as follows:

It is possible to govern based on an approach that is distinctly different from one of coercion, force and injustice. It is possible to sincerely serve and promote common human values, and honesty and compassion. It is possible to provide welfare and prosperity without tension, threats, imposition or war. It is possible to lead the world towards the aspired perfection by adhering to unity, monotheism, morality and spirituality and drawing upon the teachings of the Divine Prophets. Then, the American people, who are God-fearing and followers of Divine religions, will overcome every difficulty. What I stated represents some of my anxieties and concerns.

It’s good you got that out in the open. Here are some of my anxieties and concerns — which I’m willing to bet many Americans share:

1) You say in your letter that, “Hundreds of thousands of my Iranian compatriots are living amongst you in friendship and peace, and are contributing positively to your society.” Do you remember why so many Iranians live in the United States? Do you believe that these Iranians could live peacefully under your regime in Iran? 2) You say in your letter that, “The US administration has undermined the credibility of international organizations, particularly the United Nations and its Security Council.” The thing is, Mahmoud, your country is the one willfully ignoring Security Council resolutions. How could these actions do anything but erode the trust of Americans in the UN? 3) When you say that, “our nation has always extended its hand of friendship to all other nations of the world,” does this include acts like the Khobar towers bombing or not? 4) You have repeatedly stated that you want a dialogue with the United States. Why, then, have you rebuffed U.S. initiatives to start face-to-face negotiations with your government? 5) You take great pains in your letter to highlight, “the ever-worsening pain and misery of the Palestinian people” and “Persistent aggressions by the Zionists are making life more and more difficult for the rightful owners of the land of Palestine.” A two-part question here, Mahmoud — a) why do you never condemn acts of Palestinian terrorism; and b) in what way would the forced migration of all Israeli Jews not constitute “the trampling of peoples? rights and the intimidation and humiliation of human beings” that you claim all Iranians abhor? 6) Gideon Rachman has a blog at the Financial Times. Let’s excerpt something from a post of his:

My [non-American] interviewee has a longstanding and continuing involvement in the Middle East peace process and personal knowledge of all the major protagonists…. My interlocutor has met President Ahmadi-Nejad and describes him as ?truly scary?. He adds that he is used to dealing with populist Arab leaders, ?but when you talk to them in private, they are usually quite reasonable and rational. Ahmadi-Nejad is not like that.? His impression is that Ahmadi-Nejad is now calling the shots in Iran, and has intimidated the moderates into silence: ?They are all scared of him.? He believes that Iran is currently stirring up trouble in many different areas including Lebanon, the Israeli occupied territories and Iraq. Iraq he believes is becoming the ?arena for a regional power struggle?, pitting Sunnis against Shia.

Interestingly, this appears to be the reaction you provoke among Americans as well. What can you do to dissuade me and mine that you’re not a little… er… touched in the head?

You probably notice a theme to these questions — in all of your letters and interactions with Americans, you seem almost as obsessed with the United States as Lars von Trier. You have not, however, done anything to assuage the fears of Americans and others about the intentions and capabilities of your country. Why are you so mute about your own nation? Write back as soon as you can!! Best wishes, Daniel Drezner

Daniel W. Drezner is a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and co-host of the Space the Nation podcast. Twitter: @dandrezner

More from Foreign Policy

Newspapers in Tehran feature on their front page news about the China-brokered deal between Iran and Saudi Arabia to restore ties, signed in Beijing the previous day, on March, 11 2023.
Newspapers in Tehran feature on their front page news about the China-brokered deal between Iran and Saudi Arabia to restore ties, signed in Beijing the previous day, on March, 11 2023.

Saudi-Iranian Détente Is a Wake-Up Call for America

The peace plan is a big deal—and it’s no accident that China brokered it.

Austin and Gallant stand at podiums side by side next to each others' national flags.
Austin and Gallant stand at podiums side by side next to each others' national flags.

The U.S.-Israel Relationship No Longer Makes Sense

If Israel and its supporters want the country to continue receiving U.S. largesse, they will need to come up with a new narrative.

Russian President Vladimir Putin lays flowers at the Moscow Kremlin Wall in the Alexander Garden during an event marking Defender of the Fatherland Day in Moscow.
Russian President Vladimir Putin lays flowers at the Moscow Kremlin Wall in the Alexander Garden during an event marking Defender of the Fatherland Day in Moscow.

Putin Is Trapped in the Sunk-Cost Fallacy of War

Moscow is grasping for meaning in a meaningless invasion.

An Iranian man holds a newspaper reporting the China-brokered deal between Iran and Saudi Arabia to restore ties, in Tehran on March 11.
An Iranian man holds a newspaper reporting the China-brokered deal between Iran and Saudi Arabia to restore ties, in Tehran on March 11.

How China’s Saudi-Iran Deal Can Serve U.S. Interests

And why there’s less to Beijing’s diplomatic breakthrough than meets the eye.