Iranian people feel threatened by Islamic extremism, says president of Iranian advocacy group

[soundcloud url=”″ params=”color=ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_artwork=true” width=”100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]

Kurt Wallace: This is Kurt Wallace and our guest today on Rare: Trita Parsi President of National American Iranian Council and an award winning author his most recent book A Single Roll of the Dice – Obama’s Diplomacy with Iran and He currently teaches at the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetwon University in Washington DC. Trita Parsi thanks for being with us today on Rare.

Trita Parsi: Thank you so much for having me.

Kurt Wallace: What is the National American Iranian Council?

Trita Parsi: NAIC is the largest Iranian American grassroots organization in the United States. We’ve been around for about 12 years now. We have in the past couple of years had a very high profile and very active on US-Iran relations and our position is that we strongly oppose a military confrontation between the United States and Iran. We believe that it can be resolved peacefully so can can both avoid war with Iran as well as avoid Iran with a nuclear weapon. We’ve been strong proponents of diplomacy and we’ve been very pleased to see that the Obama administration has moved in that direction.

Kurt Wallace: What are the effects of the sanctions on Iran for Iran itself and does it help American-Isreali interests?

Trita Parsi: Well the sanctions on Iran have been very devastating when it comes to the pain that it has imposed on the Iranian economy. However, there are not a lot of signs that the sanctions have in a significant way shifted the Iranian position on the nuclear issue. In fact, much indicates that it has done the opposite. The sanctions have caused Iranians to escalate in turn and now the have a much more advance nuclear program than they had a couple of years ago in spite of all of the sanctions that have been imposed.

Kurt Wallace: The U.S. has engaged in preemptive war some say to protect American interests. Others say this causes unintended consequences World Trade Center bombing, 9/11 brutal killing of Americans abroad. Michael Shuerer former head of Bin Laden unit for the CIA says, I’m paraphrasing, “Iran will not attack another country preemptively but if we or Israel attack Iran we will see terrorism in the US like nothing we could imagine. What are your thoughts?

Trita Parsi: I think war is avoidable and war in any way shape or form actually resolve the issue. It would be a huge mistake. I think was a big mistake to go into Iraq and this would be an even greater mistake than the Iraq war was. And certainly there’s not much to indicate that the Iranians would engage in any form of a preemptive war but once they have been attacked, it’s going to be very difficult to predict with the same degree of certainty what they would or wouldn’t do. It is quite a bit more likely that they will retaliate and I know certainly that folks in the U.S. intelligence service are very worried that the Iranians would also try to strike on American soil which is something that the Iranians have not done in the last 35 years with the potential exception of the foiled attempt to target the Saudi ambassador if that story is accuarate.

Kurt Wallace: Through American history we have seen a single young generation such as the baby boomers affect change on our society culturally and politically. Today our young generation can be argued as becoming more libertarian shift. What about the mindset of Iran’s young generation today and the majority of Iranians regarding America and Islamic Extremism?

Trita Parsi: I think that Iranian youth really yearns to be able to be reinvigorated with the international community. They’re very worldly they want to be part of the world. They do not appreciate or like the fact that their country is isolated in the region and globally right now. Iran has for the most of it’s history been a pivitol state in world stage and not at all a country that has been on the sidelines in this case isolated. I think the kind of extremism that’s come out of the Middle East is something that the vast majority of Iranians strongly oppose. In fact, they feel very threatened by the threats from Wahabi and Salafi and Sunni extremism that is coming out of Saudi Arabia and some of the Persian gulf Arab states, the same brand of Islam that attacked the Untied States on 9/11.

Kurt Wallace: Your book Treacherous Alliance – Iran and Israel are not entangled in an ideological clash, but rather a resolvable strategic conflict. Many Americans would just think the opposite of that?

Trita Parsi: Yes, I think that a lot of Americans and folks around the world have been under the impression that because of the rhetoric that is coming out of Iran and Israel that their conflict is of an ideological nature and war more or less is unavoidable. But in reality we have only scratched the surface and if you see that this is a very highly strategic conflict there is an idiological component to it but it’s secondary. That’s good news because strategic conflicts you do have solutions. You can compremise most of the time whereas an idological battle is only winner takes it all.

Kurt Wallace: If you could convey one single message to Americans then regarding dealing with and understanding Iran what would it be?

Trita Parsi: I think, I cannot wait till the day in which Iran opens up and Americans can travel there in large numbers cause I think that they going to notice it’s a very different country and very different people than they have believed based on TV images, etc. In fact, the compatability value wise with the American people is significant, very significant. And I’m hoping for a much better future between the two countries and I also do believe strongly that once this conflict is resolved the opportunities for Iran itself to move in a more democrat direction is going to significantly increase.

Kurt Wallace: Please tell us a little about your book A Single Roll of the Dice- Obama’s Diplomacy with Iran and how that plays out today

Trita Parsi: Yes, I wrote this book and it came out in 2012 and it’s based on what the Obama administration did during the first two years that it was in office. And it’s called a Single roll of the dice for a reason because it was actually a quote from one of the top officials from the Obama administration that I interviewed who essentially gave me the assessment that the attempt at deplomacy back then was a very weak one. It was a genuine attempt but it didn’t have durablility. So once it ran into any problems the whole thing collapsed and the Obama administration went back to a sanctions policy. Essentially the argument was that the entire policy was a gamble on a single roll of the dice. It either had to work right away or not at all. And it didn’t work right away so the Obama administration went to sanctions. But now we’re in a phase that I have never seen the administration be so committed and so sincere to finding a diplomatic solution and the same thing is happening on the Iranian side as well.

Kurt Wallace: Trita Parsi thanks for being with us today on Rare

Trita Parsi: Thank you so much for having me



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *