Vali Nasr: Should the U.S. talk to Iran?

Question: Should the U.S. talk to Iran?

Vali Nasr: I would. I think there is no harm in talks. There is plenty of evidence historically that you may get much more from talks than not talking. 

You have two options. You either let Iran go nuclear, or you have to get into a war with Iran which can open the gates of hell in the Middle East, essentially.

Now if those are your only options, I think talking should be given its chance, even if that chance is very little. I think direct talking with Iran can change the context of every issue that’s on the table.

Well you have to let the Iranians decide who their ____ is. But the reality is that it’s not a very good idea for the United States to try to choose factions in Iran it wants to talk to. This is as bad an idea as foreign governments trying to decide they only want to talk to [U.S.] Democrats, or only want to talk to [U.S.] Republicans.

I think in the past, I think during the [Bill] Clinton administration, one reason things didn’t move forward was because Washington basically made it clear it only wanted to talk to reformists. So you talk to the Iranian state, and at the level.

Initially the talks do not need to be at the highest levels. Just having serious talks by people who are representatives of the states is all that matters. I think the personality of talks are not as important right now as a decision in America by President [George W.] Bush, and in Iran by the Supreme Leader, not by the Iranian president. Because the head of state in Iran is a Supreme Leader. The decision by these two men – the Supreme Leader and the President of the United States – that they want a different U.S.-Iran relationship, and they want constructive talks, that’s all that is required for talks.

Who actually sits at the table is much less important than getting that level of commitment. That’s what happened with China. The opening came when two men – Mao and [Richard] Nixon – decided. They didn’t know where they were heading. They didn’t know who was going to say what and what the talks would be. But they made the fundamental decision that they’re going to give engagement a serious chance.

Recorded on: Dec 3, 2007

"I think there is no harm in talks."

Do you worry too much? Stoicism can help

How imagining the worst case scenario can help calm anxiety.

Credit: OLIVIER DOULIERY via Getty Images
Personal Growth
  • Stoicism is the philosophy that nothing about the world is good or bad in itself, and that we have control over both our judgments and our reactions to things.
  • It is hardest to control our reactions to the things that come unexpectedly.
  • By meditating every day on the "worst case scenario," we can take the sting out of the worst that life can throw our way.
Keep reading Show less

Study: People will donate more to charity if they think something’s in it for them

A study on charity finds that reminding people how nice it feels to give yields better results than appealing to altruism.

Photo by Pixabay from Pexels
Personal Growth
  • A study finds asking for donations by appealing to the donor's self-interest may result in more money than appealing to their better nature.
  • Those who received an appeal to self-interest were both more likely to give and gave more than those in the control group.
  • The effect was most pronounced for those who hadn't given before.
Keep reading Show less

U.S. Navy controls inventions that claim to change "fabric of reality"

Inventions with revolutionary potential made by a mysterious aerospace engineer for the U.S. Navy come to light.

Credit: Getty Images
Surprising Science
  • U.S. Navy holds patents for enigmatic inventions by aerospace engineer Dr. Salvatore Pais.
  • Pais came up with technology that can "engineer" reality, devising an ultrafast craft, a fusion reactor, and more.
  • While mostly theoretical at this point, the inventions could transform energy, space, and military sectors.
Keep reading Show less

160-million-year-old ‘Monkeydactyl’ was the first animal to develop opposable thumbs

The 'Monkeydactyl' was a flying reptile that evolved highly specialized adaptations in the Mesozoic Era.

Credit: Zhou et al.
Surprising Science
  • The 'Monkeydactly', or Kunpengopterus antipollicatus, was a species of pterosaur, a group of flying reptiles that were the first vertebrates to evolve the ability of powered flight.
  • In a recent study, a team of researchers used microcomputed tomography scanning to analyze the anatomy of the newly discovered species, finding that it was the first known species to develop opposable thumbs.
  • As highly specialized dinosaurs, pterosaurs boasted unusual anatomy that gave them special advantages as aerial predators in the Mesozoic Era.
Keep reading Show less