For the purpose of this paper, I will review the Iran - US conflict through a psychosocial lens. Much has been written about the realpolitik and strategic calculations involved on both sides, and there is a vast amount of literature on the technical nuclear questions. This paper will be written from the lens of human security, and what would it look like if we better understood what was in the minds of the “enemy” and why the history of the negotiations and the individual history of each country have led to profound misunderstanding, frustration, and a potential further escalation of the conflict. Negotiations, while always involving political posturing, compromise, and hard deals, are also about people, respect, and collective memories. Without each side trying to understand the other’s history of trauma we will continue to see the same old power play, which fails to understand the emotional agenda that shapes the political discourse. This paper examines what would it take to reframe the conflict, how both sides could move away from the language of the enemy and instead search for areas of common interest. It will also explore what new structures could be put in place for a sustainable negotiating process.
Gabrielle Rifkind is the Director of ORG's Human Security in the Middle East programme. She is a group analyst and specialist in conflict resolution and convener and founder of the Middle East Policy Initiative Forum (MEPIF). She has initiated and facilitated a number of Track II roundtables and hosts the media 'Liddite Conversations' with ORG. She is also working on developing dialogue between Iran, the US and Israel. She makes regular contributions to press and media. She is the author of several publications, such as, together with Scilla Elworthy, of Making Terrorism History (Random House, 2005).