Middle East watchers are closely following the negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program involving the U.S. and five other nations. The goal is to reach a framework agreement by the end of March, with a final agreement by the end of June.
Facing pressure to oppose the talks, many in Congress are focusing on legislation to require congressional approval of an agreement with Iran and another bill that would impose new sanctions. Passage of either of these bills would be seen as interference in the negotiations and make reaching an agreement much more difficult.
But despite all of the attention that Iran receives in the U.S. Congress, few in the United States take the time to hear the perspectives of Iranians, sliding too easily instead into demonizing or caricaturing the country and its people.
In conversations with Iranians about the nuclear negotiations, for example, I have consistently heard the following:
• Iranians want to be respected as part of the international community. This includes appreciation of their rich history and culture.
• Iran has the right to peaceful enrichment of uranium. They are signatories to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and subject to the required inspections. As part of the November 2013 agreement with the U.S. and others, Iran has been subject to even more frequent inspections of its nuclear program than it was previously.
• The U.S. and Russia, both involved in the negotiations to prevent Iran from developing any nuclear weapons, each has about 1,600 deployed nuclear warheads and several thousand more that are not deployed.
• One country in the Middle East does have nuclear weapons: Israel, as confirmed by a recently released document by the Central Intelligence Agency. Unlike Iran, Israel is not a member of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Many of these points emerged in a recent interview with Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. But they are echoed by Iranians from a variety of backgrounds and political perspectives.
As Christians, we should take the time to hear the concerns of others and to honestly consider their call for self-reflection. “Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:3). As citizens of a country with several thousand nuclear warheads, these words of Jesus remind us of the need for humility.
In this critical month of negotiations, please consider contacting your members of Congress to urge them to support negotiations in a spirit of respect and humility.
Rachelle Lyndake Schlabach is the director of the MCC U.S. Washington Office. Reprinted with permission from Third Way Cafe. Originally published on March 13, 2015.