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The current rift between the US and Iran is argued to be based on false perceptions and speculated intentions of the other.  For the last four years, the Iranian government has chosen to pursue uranium enrichment without international inspectors overseeing its production and ensuring that it is for peaceful purposes of producing energy.  The reason for the Iranian government to refuse the IAEA to enter its nuclear facilities is where the speculation begins and political inferences and agendas are crafted.  Clearly, communication is the first step to clear the air of speculation and reconcile this highly politicized and vulnerable schism, but who will actually do something about it?

US President Barack Obama has already taken the first steps of extending an olive branch to the country very strategic for US interests.  Both on Obama’s first television interview and at Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s first meeting last week on the matter with the world’s major powers, the Administration made it clear that there is a shift in US policy to Iran.  Obama is willing to directly speak with Iranian officials to find a resolution to the tumultuous relationship that has escalated since 2005.

In the US, peace organizations and activists are holding Obama under the limelight to ensure he follows through with the promises of his campaign.  Not only are activists pressuring government officials and legislators to be true to their word, they have even taken the matter in their own hands and have sent several peaceful delegations to Iran to meet with Iranian citizens there.  These delegations aim to promote citizen diplomacy and build bridges over the lack of communication that have plagued the two governments for the last few years.  As a country that largely expressed its support for the victims and their families of September 11th, Iranians’ sense of humanity is remarkable despite differences between their government and foreign governments.  Acknowledging their vast amount of similarities and empathy for the American community is a first step to reconciling a relationship for which each country has been starving.

The Iranian government, specifically President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has made many similar public statements of wanting to open dialogue and build this bridge of peace.  Without the pressures of being recorded, broadcasted, and having public demonstrations against his policies, I attended a meeting with Ahmadinejad last September where he repeated his sentiment for the need for open dialogue.  When we brought up the issue of permitting more Americans to visit Iran, he even concurred and pressed the Iranian officials present to address that issue.  This was a bold and reassuring step in my mind that he was willing to be proactive about the situation but I was also not going to hold my breath.

Thank God I didn’t.

I originally had plans to be on one of the citizen diplomacy delegations to Iran this past August 2008.  Unfortunately, the entire delegation’s visas were denied, which is one main reason why we confronted him with this issue in September.  I was rescheduled to go on a similar delegation this month but, alas, had my visa denied again.  I was a bit worried about this happening since not only was a US women’s badminton team had their visas denied a couple of weeks ago after being invited by Iran but also because a British organization that promote cultural and education ties have also been under scrutiny lately.  These events are contradictory to Ahmadinejad’s statements.  I can only speculate as to why the Iranian government has chosen to tighten down on foreign visas into Iran, but I am sure that it is the wrong direction for Ahmadinejad.  Barring communication and interactions between the two countries will prolong a unnerving relationship already on the rocks with false perceptions and speculations.  I can only ask for Ahmadinejad to uphold his convictions he convincingly portrayed five months ago and open the Iranian borders for others to witness the beauty of Iran and its people…the lasting effects will be priceless.



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