On Thursday, Nov. 20, Iranian journalist Ali Eshraghi visited Western Carolina University to end the school’s International Education Week with a presentation on the relations between Iran and the United States.
Eshraghi is an accomplished journalist, having worked in the business for more than 15 years. He has published articles and op-ed pieces in major media outlets including CNN, The Atlantic, The New York Times, The Guardian, PBS Frontline, The New Republic and Al Jazeera. Eshraghi worked as an editor at several Tehran newspapers before becoming a visiting scholar at universities. Currently Eshraghi is the Iranian project manager at the Institute of War and Peace Reporting and a teaching fellow in the Department of Communication Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Eshraghi discussed reasons why Iran and the U.S. are not able to negotiate successfully, including a trust issue. The U.S. negotiates with threats, punishments and sanctions, Eshraghi says. He added that Israel and Saudi Arabia, allies to the U.S., are threats to Iran. The main obstacle both countries haven’t figured out is how to give each other “yes-able” options, Eshraghi explained — meaning options that consist of reasonable deals and negotiations.
According to Eshraghi, the U.S. going to war with Iraq was a big mistake and hurt the trust of the Middle Easterners. “There is a pessimistic view, which is a safe bet in the Middle East,” Eshraghi said when talking about negotiations failing through between the two countries.
An underlying reason for the tension between Iran and the U.S. is that both countries’ leaders are affected by third parties, he added. President Obama is affected by Congress and the president of Iran is influenced by U.S.-opposing citizens.
“It’s not a matter of legality but of political agendas,” Eshraghi said to the audience.
Eshraghi also pointed out the mistrust other countries have for Iran’s nuclear power, adding that he believes the country has the right to a civil nuclear program. However, he added that Iran has not been known for being open about their nuclear engagements, a secrecy that makes the rest of the world nervous.
At the end of his presentation, Eshraghi took questions from the audience. One audience member asked whether religion and cultural ignorance plays a part in the strained relations with Iran. Eshraghi answered that the Iranian people do not have that much influence over foreign policy.
“It’s not about people; it’s about the politicians, about forming the mindset of the people of how to think of these rivalries,” Eshraghi said.
When asked if the U.S. still has dominant power in the region or if the control is fading into the background, Eshraghi said, “U.S. is the major player but [no longer] the only player in the picture that can make decisions. The hegemony of the U.S. is fading and countries want to do whatever they want to do. The interest of the U.S. is not aligning with the interest of the Iranians.”
Director of International Programs and Services Ling Gao Lebeau also attended the presentation. “I think he is a very experienced journalist and scholar in his field,” she said of Eshraghi. “I think he really provides a very holistic picture of the relationship between certain countries and diplomacy to the audience today. [It was] very educational.”
Ali Eshraghi spoke to communication students on Friday, Nov. 21, about peace, war and conflict resolution, religion and what it takes to succeed as a journalist. Video by Alina Voronenko and Hunter Bryn.
Alina Voronenko is a senior at Western Carolina University majoring in communications. She is the editor of the Western Carolina Journalist, director of TV 62 and a video operations specialist for WCU Athletics. This piece was produced as a partnership between Mountain Xpress and Western Carolina University.