ORG 5605: Communication Strategies for Conflict
Resolution and Mediation
Dr. Sara Rogers
March 14, 2011
The relationship between the United States and Iran has increasingly been deteriorating, especially since Tehran began to flex its muscles following the Iraq war in 2003 and its insistence on maintaining its uranium enrichment program. Both sides have grievances against each other that date back to the 1979 Iranian Revolution and beyond (Ben-Meir, 2009). The two countries have been in dialogue in the past but with fundamental ideological and strategic differences. There are many important points to their issues with Iran’s nuclear weapon program being the biggest. The fact remains, however, that the United States and Iran remain far apart on a range of key issues where compromise may be difficult or impossible. It is also all too apparent that neither the United States nor Iran has any unified view of how talks should begin. Many of those who are most optimistic about the power of dialogue to bring some broad easing of tensions ignore the depth of the differences on either side (Cordesman, 2008). In the opening statement at the 64th session of the UN General Assembly, Obama had called on countries to "stop the spread of nuclear weapons, and seek the goal of a world without them" and warned Iranian leaders that if they chose to "put the pursuit of nuclear weapons ahead of regional stability and the security and opportunity of their own people," they would be held accountable (Albright & Shire, 2009). The disputes between the two countries also have two perspectives. From the Iranian perspective, decades of being abused by Western powers - especially the United States - came to an end with the Islamic revolution. Ironically, the Bush administration's decision to topple Saddam Hussein has, in effect, ended America's dual containment policy of Iraq and Iran leaving Tehran to claim the spoils of the Iraq war. They moved swiftly to take advantage of the chaotic war conditions, exploiting their close ties to the Iraqi leaders and entrenching themselves in most of Iraq's social, economic and political arena. With or without American presence in Iraq the Iranian government has vowed to never again allow Iraq to become a threat to their national security. It feels it has won its Cold War with the US and finally defeated the American imperialism designed to subjugate the Iranian people and exploit their resources. Although many Iranians feel stifled and isolated by their government, they still view the Islamic revolution as something that has freed them from Western bondage and set them on a historical journey to greatness. The Iranian leaders are determined to assert themselves regionally, especially now that their country has become a substantial player in the oil market. The pursuit of a nuclear program is a symbol of the government's newly found power and a means by which it can enhance its regional leadership role, if not the country's hegemony. The government feels confident it can continue to do so in defiance of the international community without paying an unacceptable price. This sense of self-importance is partly generated from the past riches of the Persian culture and partly from the current prevailing perception of self-worth as a strategic nation with vast deposits of oil and gas (Ben-Meir, 2009). Prior to the conflict stalling, the parties were able to cover certain aspects of both integrative and distributive negotiations. Successful integrative negotiations yields mutually acceptable agreements that may promote order and stability, increases feelings of self-efficacy, reduces the probability of future conflict, and stimulates economic prosperity Giacomantonio, De Dreu, & Mannetti, 2010). Distributive negotiations are those in which the issues at stake involve fixed sums of goods or resources to be allocated among the negotiating parties. In the purely...