November 6, 2014

John Limbert - Iran and America: Endless Enemies? (November 2013 Lecture At University of Central Oklahoma)

An excerpt from, "Former US Ambassador, Iran Hostage John Limbert to Speak at UCO," University of Central Oklahoma:
The University of Central Oklahoma will host a presentation and question-and-answer session with former U.S. ambassador and Iran hostage John W. Limbert, Ph.D., from 5:30-7 p.m. Nov. 4 in Ballroom C of the Nigh University Center (NUC) on Central’s campus. Limbert was one of 52 American hostages held for 444 days beginning in November 1979 in Tehran, Iran, during the country’s Islamic Revolution.

Limbert’s “Iran and America: Endless Enemies?” presentation will examine both the history and future of U.S.-Iran relations.

“As world events and conversations continue to center on the Middle East, it is imperative that we engage with the academic and diplomatic communities that have firsthand knowledge of the complex issues and realities of the region,“ said Jarrett Jobe, Ph.D., executive director of UCO’s Leadership Central.

“Dr. Limbert possesses both academic and practical knowledge of the region. His visit will provide an opportunity for our university community to hear his insights and thoughts on American-Iranian relations for the future,” Jobe added.

Now a professor of history and political science at the U.S. Naval Academy, Limbert’s 34-year career in the U.S. Foreign Service began in 1973 and included posts in Algeria, Djibouti, Guinea, Iran, Iraq, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and the United Arab Emirates.
An excerpt from the lecture "Iran and America: Endless Enemies?" by former Ambassador John Limbert:
"We continue, or have continued, to do what we've done for 33, 34 years. We stand on opposite sides of an abyss, there is a chasm between us, and we glare at each other across this abyss, and we insult each other, we call each other names like 'Axis of Evil' and 'Great Satan' and the result has been decades of futility and frustration, and a cold war between us that occasionally has threatened to become something much worse. Now, ask yourself why is this so? Why can't we get off this road when it's clearly in the interest of both sides to do so? What's made us captive of a downward spiral of hostility, a downward spiral we cannot break?

. . . For the last 34 years, there has been a set of unalterable laws that have governed Iranian-American relations. . . These are what I call the five rules that govern U.S.-Iranian relations, the modern version of the laws of the Medes and Persians that alter not. And both sides, both Tehran and Washington for the last 33, 34 years have been caught in the grip of these unalterable laws. What are they? They're pretty self-explanatory.

Number #1 is never walk through an open door. If you see an open door, don't walk through it, much better to bang your head against the wall, much more satisfaction that way.

Second, never say yes to anything the other side proposes. Because if they propose it and you do, you're going to look weak, so always say no, because the worst thing that can happen is you look weak. So if you say no you'll look strong and the other side won't take advantage of you. Now, the other side could propose a hotline between the two capitals, the other side could propose abandoning 20% nuclear enrichment, or something else, doesn't matter what it is. Whatever they say, you never say yes to it.

And, similarly, number #3, never forget that the other side is infinitely hostile, infinitely devious, infinitely irrational, infinitely domineering. The other side is the embodiment of all that is evil. Now, I wish I was making this up, but listen to some of the statements, even some of the more recent statements that are being made in both capitals. You will see what I mean.

Number #4 is never forget that anything the other side proposes must contain some kind of trick, they are always up to something, because, being who they are, they wouldn't propose it. If there was no trick, why would they propose it? And, again, I wish I was making this up, but I'm not. I'll have some examples for you.

Finally, number #5, whenever you seem to be making progress, whenever you seem to be making a breakthrough, someone, some bad luck, some bad, evil star, is going to come along, and screw it up. Again, look in 2001, we and the Iranians cooperated very closely together, very productively, very professionally, in creating a new arrangement for Afghanistan after 9/11. This was well documented. Read the account in ambassador James Dobbins's book called "After the Taliban," in which he and in fact the current Iranian foreign minister, Mr. Zarif, met together in Germany and it was really thanks to Mr. Zarif's effort that the arrangements for Afghanistan were finalized. What was the Iranians' reward for that? The 'Axis of Evil' speech in January 2002. Was it a deliberate effort to mess things up? I don't know. But that was the effect. It was throwing cold water on what looked like progress." [12:45 - 21:11].