Ali Ettefagh at PostGlobal

Ali Ettefagh

Tehran, Iran

Dr. Ali Ettefagh serves as a director of Highmore Global Corporation, an investment company in emerging markets of Eastern Europe, CIS, and the Middle East. He is the co-author of several books on trade conflict, resolution of international trade disputes, conflicts in letters of credit, trade-related banking transactions, sovereign debt, arbitration and dispute resolutions and publications specific to the oil and gas, communication, aviation and finance sectors. Dr. Ettefagh is a member of the executive committee and the board of directors of The Development Foundation, an advisor to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, and an advisor to a number of European companies. Dr. Ettefagh speaks Persian (Farsi), English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, Arabic and Turkish. Close.

Ali Ettefagh

Tehran, Iran

Dr. Ali Ettefagh serves as a director of Highmore Global Corporation, an investment company in emerging markets of Eastern Europe, CIS, and the Middle East. more »

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Start with Cool Heads and Good Faith

The agenda for the first U.S.-Iran meeting in Baghdad was about Iraq and a search for solutions to turn Iraq’s misfortunes around. Each party has its own interest in seeing a stable Iraq and some sort of light at the end of the proverbial tunnel.

The tense recent history leading to such talks has been remarkably devoid of any kind of diplomacy. Despite such serious and businesslike meetings, unprecedented hostility and emotions have fogged up the atmosphere. Exchange of convenient short sentences and zingers are volleyed via the media. The tough talk intensified during the Bush era. Policies and budgets for aimless and absurd “regime change” coupled with labels of “evil” have been dispensed by clueless planners who do not have passports and have not seen the real world. In retrospect, and if Iraq was not such a desperate tragedy, one might see it all as a hyper-confused comedy of the medieval Wars of the Roses mixed up with Danny DeVito’s movie The War of the Roses (ca. 1989).

The domestic and small-minded internal politics of both sides have loaded each side of the table with heavy-handed mandates in these talks. However, an objective observer will note that Iranian ambitions are modest and indeed in self-defense, if only to ensure that life in Tehran will not deteriorate to the standards of Baghdad streets and the destruction of the social and economic fabric in Iran.

It is folly to expect that these talks yield up a comprehensive and global “Grand Bargain.” Although circumstances are different, it is useful to recall the Paris Talks that spanned the last five years of the Vietnam War and served as a clearing house for several common purposes: the exchange of grievances by proxy, a shift of bias from mistrust to a gradual crawl toward good faith, defining limits and the necessary testing of intentions through a series of baby steps forward. All of these take time. In the case of Monday’s talks, while the American side used the opportunity to air out its complaints and serve notice, the Iranian side took the first step forward in good faith and suggested the forming of a joint security assessment committee in Iraq.

The meeting of Iranian and American diplomats on Memorial Day ought to serve as a symbolic gesture of good faith for both sides, albeit that it was not a day of significance on the Iranian calendar. However, I wonder whether the dead and the fallen (on all sides) will be honored with sincere movements towards a mature and stable peaceful atmosphere in the region. The agenda demands genuine intentions, cordiality and dignity on an even turf, and the maturity and will to let go of the stale past and look forward to a better future for all. Cool heads, mutual respect, and even-handed polite diplomacy should anchor the agenda and the rest ought to evolve in due course. Again, I might be fooling myself to believe that such ingredients are amply available in both capitals!

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