By Mohammad Mazhari

American decision-makers lack ability to understand Iranian civilization: professor

March 13, 2021 - 21:12

TEHRAN - Professor Arshin Adib-Moghaddam, chair of the Centre for Iranian Studies at the London Middle East Institute, says that the conversation between Persepolis and Washington DC can lead to repeated misunderstandings due to Americans’ failure to understanding Iran’s civilization.

“While it is true that the U.S. and Iran share interests in the region and beyond, the conversation between Persepolis and Washington DC can only lead to repeated misunderstandings,” Professor Adib-Moghaddam tells the Tehran Times.

However, Professor Arshin Adib-Moghaddam says, contrary to the U.S., China and Russia have a better understanding of Iran.

“China and even Russia have a better understanding of Iran also because of their civilizational capital and the historical depth of the institutions that govern their international conduct,” Adib-Moghaddam notes.

The professor says while Iran and the U.S. share interests in West Asia and other regions, the long-term quarrel between the two countries raises questions about the roots of this conflict. 
 
Following is the text of the interview:


Q: How do you describe Iran and its position in West Asia in terms of history?

A: As I have described in my book "What is Iran?": The most fundamental aspect of Iran's position is the country's embeddedness in the regional and global culture. Iran is a transnational phenomenon that can't be reduced to its geopolitical locality. Iran is in every fiber of the region and it has always been a major focal point of global history. From the ancient Greek Historians such as Xenophon to the doyens of the European Enlightenment such as Hegel: Persia is one of the major nodal points of the world. Global history can't be thought and comprehended without an understanding of Iran. 

Adib-Moghaddam is of the opinion that most U.S. decision-makers lack the ability of comprehensive understanding when it comes to Iranian civilization. 
“This ability is entirely absent from the toolbox of other U.S. decision-makers,” he notes.

“They (Americans) don't understand Iran as a civilizational entity that has existed beyond the current set-up.”

Q: Why did Iran and the U.S. fail to reach an understanding despite the fact that some say the two countries have common interests in the region? Is it due to different conceptions of the world order or because of different interests?

A: Iran and the United States are fundamentally different countries exactly because of the reasons mentioned above. Persia is ancient, the USA is recent in terms of its presence in global history. China and even Russia have a better understanding of Iran also because of their civilizational capital and the historical depth of the institutions that govern their international conduct. History makes a real difference. China in particular better comprehends the longue durée that continuously tempers with the subliminal consciousness of Iranian decision-makers. This is the psychological context, which guides HOW the interests can be implemented and aligned. While it is true that the U.S. and Iran share interests in the region and beyond, the conversation between Persepolis and Washington DC can only lead to repeated misunderstandings. Obama understood this dynamic which is why he referred to Iranian culture through Khayyam and the Persian New Year to build bridges. This ability is entirely absent from the toolbox of other U.S. decision-makers. They don't understand Iran as a civilizational entity that has existed beyond the current set-up.

The difference does not have to translate into conflict and antagonism. It simply requires understanding to be bridged. Iran and the United States could work together if there emerges an empathetic drive towards accepting each other's interests but also sensitivities and limitations. This would make for a trusting relationship that is not merely geared to short term interests and pragmatism"

Q: Given the huge media propaganda against Iran on the other front, how can we help the Western side (people and government) to understand Iran?

A: By reading history, understanding culture, and comprehending the complexity of a country such as Iran and indeed the world beyond the United States. By training, institutions to work with a mind that resembles Methusalem, a sage with the wisdom acquired through knowledge.

“There is no ‘West’, anymore and the future of the world order will be by far more diffuse, opaque and decentered than the ‘unipolar moment’ when the U.S. remained as the sole superpower after the demise of the Soviet Union in 1989.”
 

Q: Do you think that Western powers are ready to acknowledge Iran's position and power in West Asia?

A: The United States has been in decline and the devastation of this horrific pandemic accelerated this process. China is the biggest trading partner of the European Union, now, which has buttressed and formalized this relationship with a trade deal. There is no "West", anymore and the future of the world order will be by far more diffuse, opaque and decentered than the "unipolar moment" when the U.S. remained as the sole superpower after the demise of the Soviet Union in 1989. That moment has been over for a while, now and Iran will need to reposition itself within a radically different international system. To that end, it is indispensable to foster an image of the country that can compete with the propaganda of the right-wing. Reforming the institutions of the state and professionalizing them in their service to the people which have always been Iran's biggest asset is central to this task. So far, successive Iranian governments have failed in that regard which explains why Iran continues to wait for others to acknowledge its influence, rather than making it inevitable that this power is felt as a productive force in international affairs.


Q: Why are right-wing narratives dominant in our world?

A: This is central to "What is Iran?". Globalization afforded formerly disparate right-wing movements all over the world with the luxury to connect and organize themselves beyond borders and to integrate their strategies as such. With immense financial resources and equipped with a martialist politics of hatred and xenophobia, the global right-wing is perfectly positioned to exploit any crisis in order to deepen divisions along ethnic, cultural and civilizational lines. So, they march on, against the "other", but also against the aspiration of their people for social emancipation, freedom and democracy, innate feelings of human nature that have always been a target of totalitarian movements. Most people seek clarity. The right-wing mentality caters for that. It's black and white, us against them. Unless we foster global institutions that teach and reward complex, critical thinking, the bad guys will continue to march on and drag us into the abyss.


 

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