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US-Iran Relations: Has the Time Come?

Cyrus R. Vance (

Cyrus R. Vance (

Specifically, I believe it is time for Iran and the United States to re-establish diplomatic ties. The leadership of President Khatami offers an opportunity for Iran and the United States to ameliorate their tense and estranged relationship.

Once diplomatic relations are established, even at something less than full diplomatic ties, other legitimate grievances, including our concerns about terrorism, the peace process, and weapons of mass destruction, can then begin to be addressed. So, too, regular bilateral business between the two countries can resume in an improved atmosphere of mutual respect and good faith.

In the past two decades, what is abnormal in the discourse among nations has been accepted as normal in US-Iran relations. Lack of diplomatic relations, often between countries at conflict, even at war, is the abnormality, not the norm.

My proposal to re-establish diplomatic relations-not necessarily friendly relations, but diplomatic relations-is a sensible, simple, and straightforward approach that will finally get us off dead center.

This proposal, which is in the best interest of both nations, requires political will and a leap of faith. I believe the leaders-and the peoples-of our two great countries are capable of meeting this challenge. I call on President Clinton and on Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, and other leaders on both sides, to embark on the rapid re-establishment of diplomatic relations.

Here in the United States, the torch is passing from my generation to a new generation of leaders. We need to remind them of Iran's enormous strategic significance within the region and beyond, its vast economic potential, its contributions to civilization, the vitality of its cultural and religious heritage, and the hospitality and generosity of its people.

In the past twenty years, about a million Iranians have made the United States their home, and proud home. These citizens have distinguished themselves across all walks of life and endeavor. They are natural bridges between our two nations.

Iran is in transition. More than half of the population was born after US-Iran relations were severed. They demand the opportunity to be integrated fully into the world community, a demand that is increasingly recognized by the authorities in Tehran.

The Iranian government has indicated that it would welcome American business involvement in Iran, especially in the oil sector. American businessmen, on their part, urge Washington to be allowed to do so. Moreover, the two countries share common interest in the fight against drugs, concerns about instability in Afghanistan, and erratic regime in Iraq, and development of the infrastructure to transport oil and gas from the Caspian Basin.

We have much to work together on. In my capacity as Honorary Chairman of the American-Iranian Council, I look forward to working with distinguished American and Iranian members of the Council to usher in a new chapter in the relations between our two countries.

In short, the time has come for us as American and Iranian citizens to apply our mutual energy, intellect, and goodwill toward strengthening relations between our two countries, as their destinies are intertwined. Thank you.