It would be nice to live in a world where words carried as much weight as deeds, since we would each have reason to be much more attentive to what we say and hear. In reality, however, even though words count, it matters much more what people and governments do than what they say — unless it comes to Iran.
Listen to many an Israeli leader or a politician or pundit in Washington and one would conclude that every word that comes out of Tehran is loaded with enormous significance — at least if it can be construed negatively. The positive can easily be dismissed, but anything ominous is treated like a window revealing the future.
Fareed Zakaria recently described the nuclear deal with Iran as a “train wreck” because Iran’s president Rouhani has said that Iran would not destroy centrifuges “under any circumstances.”
Meir Javedanfar points out why Zakaria’s conclusion is premature.
I think Fareed is jumping the gun here. What the Iranian government, elected by people in limited regime monitored elections and what the un-elected regime headed by the supreme leader say is not always what they will always do.
This is why Iran should be judged by its actions and not its words.
Why am I saying this?
Because I have lost count of the number of times that Iranian regime and Iranian government officials have stated in the past that Iran would never cease enrichment at any level, be it temporary or permanent.
These were all said prior to the 24th of November 2013 Geneva deal.
Yet we saw that as part of that deal, Iran did agree to halt enrichment at 20%.
That Iran’s leaders may say one thing and do another should be interpreted the right way: it shows pragmatism and flexibility.
The whole foundation of talks — something that America’s leaders often forget — is that the spoken word is a flexible medium. Talking shouldn’t be treated as a mechanism of coercion — an opportunity to force a weaker opponent to bend to ones demands. Such an approach inevitably and appropriately provokes resistance. Instead, what talking is all about is opening a space in which accommodations can be found. It’s about exploring avenues which in the absence of such talks, will remain invisible.