November 24, 2014, looms as a strategic date in world history. At that time, a deadline for a deal with Iran will be reached. And, even though Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, among others, has said “no deal is better than a bad deal,” it appears as if President Obama’s team and the so-called P5+1 group — the U.S., Britain, France, Russia, and China, plus Germany – are seeking any deal rather than no deal.
It is something of an old saw to contend that if a woman says “no,” she means “maybe.” If she says “maybe” she means “yes,” but if she says “yes” she is not a “lady.” Similarly if a man says “yes,” he means “maybe,” if he says “maybe” he means “no,” but if says “no,” he could not possibly be a negotiator in Vienna for the Obama administration.
Azar Nafisi, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Reading Lolita in Tehran, is here to tell us about her new book: The Republic of Imagination: America in Three Books.
Ten years ago, Nafisi wrote Reading Lolita in Tehran, which told the story of how she taught American literature to eager students in Iran, revealing how fiction can be a liberating force in a totalitarian society.
Blending memoir with close readings of four of her favorite novels—Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Sinclair Lewis’s Babbitt, Carson McCullers’s The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter and James Baldwin’s Another Country—Azar describes how she first discovered America and its fictional landscape as a young girl in Tehran and reminds us of the crucial role that literature played in the lives of the founding fathers.
The Obama Middle East foreign policy lens is focused on one issue at the moment: the defeat of ISIS. In pursuing this goal, the Obama team is seeking allies including former enemies such as Iran, notwithstanding claims to the contrary. While the U.S. now sees Iran as a potential stabilizing force in Iraq and Syria, Tehran is chafing at what it considers the tough negotiating stance of the U.S. on its nuclear program.
For the last few days my wife and I attended the semi-annual meeting of the International Society for Iranian Studies. It was held in Montreal this time. Several panels were devoted to Iranian foreign policy. At one of them, scholars outlined Iran’s strategic isolation and the limited choices available to it.
A brief meeting yesterday between U.S. and Iranian officials in Vienna and news today that the U.S. is deploying almost 300 troops to Iraq to protect its embassy there amid deadly clashes between Shiite Iraqi forces and the Sunni extremist group ISIS has given the world plenty to talk about in the last 24 hours.
At President Obama’s State of The Union Address scant attention was given to foreign policy. He did note that “the war in Afghanistan is coming to end;” but in reality the war continues. It just so happens the U.S. will be absent from it. Yet the truncated reporting on foreign policy is suggestive. Could it be there is little to report or is it more telling to suggest that there is little good news to report?