Mistrust plays a powerful role in the US-Iran conflict. It is no wonder that Iranian hardliners hold that once Tehran gives in to Washington’s pressures and halts its nuclear program, the US would then use issues such as human rights and terrorism to impose even more draconian sanctions. Islamic leaders’ perceive that a US victory on the nuclear issue could boost US confidence and encourage it to aggressively use sanctions to bring about regime change.
Contrary to the popular perspective in the West, the Iranians will not bow to the pressure policy; it will only lead to non-communication and block the road to meaningful negotiations. Under these conditions, an accidental or intentional war becomes even more likely. As former US National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski has put it, “the more you lean towards compulsion, the more the choice becomes war if it doesn’t work.”
The US must adjust its policy along the following key lines. First, it should abandon the terms of carrot and stick as well as the language of threat and intimidation, replacing them with a respectful tone. Second, Washington must abandon the “all-options-are-on-the-table” mantra, replacing it with a policy of negotiations that put all parties on an equal basis.