Ambassador William Luers spoke last night to a captivated audience on the necessity for engagement between the United States and Iran, offering recommendations on how President Barack Obama can best move forward as diplomacy with the Middle Eastern state continues to prove tense.
Luers took the main stage in Barnum Hall for the event, attended by a mix of undergraduate and graduate students. He emphasized that it was imperative that the United States move away from the nuclear issue and focus instead on Iran as a country.
“The U.S. cannot persuade Iran to accept nuclear provisions” without direct diplomacy, Luers said. For “too long we [have] felt that military force The speaker urged the Obama administration to steer away from the “echo of the last eight years” and initiate a new perspective on diplomacy with Iran, whose relationship with the United States has been tenuous for decades and has become increasingly precarious in the past few years.
Luers’ speech came after Obama on Friday called for an immediate inspection of a recently found uranium enrichment facility in Iran.
“Sanctions will not change behavior in Iran,” Luers said, adding that Obama, flanked by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, provided a “threatening posture” to the country.
The sole path to successful communication between the two countries, Luers said, is for the United States to create a “strategic relationship.” Luers urged U.S. and Iranian leaders to initiate a dialogue first based on areas on which the two countries agree, like climate change and drug trafficking, before they approach the nuclear issue.
Luers is a former president of the United Nations Association of the U.S.A. He has spent 31 years in the U.S. Foreign Service and previously served as ambassador to Czechoslovakia and Venezuela.
His lecture last night complemented a course he is teaching this semester through the Experimental College called “Talking with the Enemy.” Luers plans to present a series of case studies in his class over the course of the semester to detail specific ways in which past presidents have engaged adversaries.
Director of the Institute for Global Leadership (IGL) Sherman Teichman initiated the evening’s event, introducing Luers and praising the extensive opportunities the university offers for students to explore the merits of diplomacy.
Teichman additionally highlighted the work of Wendy Luers, the wife of the ambassador, who was also in attendance. As part of her career working in international organizations, Luers’ wife was integral in the inception of the Project on Justice in Times of Transition, an independent, non-profit organization that promotes dialogue among war-torn countries in an effort to avoid conflict. The project is housed at Tufts, in the same building as the IGL.
A question and answer session followed the lecture, with a graduate student from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy offering an Iranian perspective and touching upon the thirty years of “solidarity” felt by Iran during times of war when the United States refused to aid the country. The student questioned the likelihood of diplomacy, particularly when assent to U.S. policy by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would lead to “social suicide” thanks to the anti-American sentiment in Iran.
Luers again cited the need for a firm, strategic relationship between the two countries to aid in the search for uranium and nuclear facilities.
Teichman was pleased with the turnout and told the Daily after the event that “quality not quantity” determines the success of a lecture of this sort.
This article has been changed from its originally published version. It was originally stated that the Project on Justice in Times of Transition was affiliated with Harvard University, whereas it is actually an independent organization housed at Tufts.