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November 2, 2015

Leadership Conference 2015: Alan Eyre Keynote

IMG_4733Washington, DC – “NIAC played a crucial role in explaining the deal to the American people [and] to our elected representatives,” said State Department Persian language spokesperson Alan Eyre, addressing the 2015 National Iranian American Council (NIAC) Leadership Conference.  He noted that NIAC’s Trita Parsi and Reza Marashi attended each round of the nuclear negotiations to gain as much knowledge as possible on the deal and brief reporters. Moreover, he said, the Iranian-American community “has the unique potential to help guide” the future of U.S.-Iran relations. Their knowledge of both cultures and both peoples allow the community to play a “key role in creating connections, building bridges, and explaining each culture to the other and bringing each nation’s peoples closer to each other.”

Eyre started his remarks by discussing how commitment to diplomacy was key to securing the final Iran nuclear deal. The JCPOA has yet to be implemented but, as Eyre said, the deal has shown “that smart, tough diplomacy can work and can solve world problems.”  Eyre noted that the question that has been on the mind of all who followed the conclusion of the Iran nuclear deal is: where are U.S.-Iran relations headed in the coming years? His answer: “I have no earthly idea.” Eyre has studied Iran—the language, the people, the politics—for over 30 years and played a key role in negotiations leading to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). His knowledge on the topic is diverse and he is one of many to admit that the future is difficult to foresee.

For years, Eyre noted, the nuclear negotiations went back and forth with little signs of progress, but keeping diplomacy in mind along with the unity of the international community, negotiations were able to move forward. The 2013 Iranian presidential elections was the turning point, he said. “When given a choice, the Iranian people would vote for a way forward characterized by constructive interaction between Iran and the international community on the nuclear issue,” Eyre observed. After Hassan Rouhani was elected president, the September 2013 telephone call to the UN General Assembly between Obama and Rouhani, and discussions between Secretaries Kerry and Zarif, nuclear negotiations turned around very quickly. From there on, negotiations were “serious and prolonged…both multilaterally and bilaterally at the expert political and ministerial levels” and within months came the Joint Plan of Action, followed by the Lausanne agreement, and finally the JCPOA.

Eyre pointed out there is still much work to be done and that the administration will be focused on implementing the agreement in the weeks ahead. However, Eyre also made clear that through these successful negotiations, trust has been built, and now the U.S. and Iran have a foundation moving forward to potentially address other issues. Some of the issues Eyre outlined included Iran’s role in addressing regional issues, human rights in Iran, and the unjust detention of American citizens. Concerning these issues, Eyre stressed the need for patience. He compared the future of U.S.-Iran relations after the deal to binge watching a TV show. As a viewer wants to immediately watch the next season of a TV show, the international community wants to see immediate results with the deal. However, Eyre stated that the U.S., Iran, and the international community must focus “on the work at hand today” to “help write the script for the next season” of U.S.-Iran relations. The work at hand—JCPOA implementation, addressing human rights abuses, addressing regional conflict—will be difficult but all parties must try their hardest. Eyre, quoting the words of the Persian poet Saadi, said “striking out into the desert is better than sitting idly.”

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