From 1961 to 2014 the United States and Cuba had no formal relations and the US imposed strict sanctions on the Caribbean nation. Life in Cuba was made difficult in the hopes that the Castro regime would fall under the weight of external pressures. All that changed this week as the United States "normalized" relations with one of its greatest enemies.
The question now is, can the US do it again with Iran?
Like Cuba, Iran has developed a certain brand connotation in the US. The country presides prominently in the pantheon of "evil nations." The Ayatollahs are painted as bloodthirsty, nuclear bomb seeking, anti-Americans leading a mass of mindless followers into the apocalypse. Iran is painted as an unsafe country to visit where anyone venturing in must be prepared to "disappear" forever.
So it is that, like Cuba, Iran has suffered under progressively stricter sanctions since the revolution in 1979. Like Cubans, Iranians have found creative ways to survive and, in the case of Iran, thrive despite the sanctions, thus proving the generally accepted wisdom on sanctions -- unless they work immediately they will never work at all.
As the geopolitical landscape continues to shift in dramatic and sometimes troubling ways, there are signs of positive progress. What the US did in beginning the road towards reconciliation with Cuba is an act of true leadership that overshadows any military conquest any nation could ever claim. To open the door to dialogue and peace is a step in the direction of a future all humanity can share and prosper in.
As an Iranian-American, it is my deepest hope that the perceived political chasms that sometimes create the illusion of insurmountable obstacles will dissipate in the face of reason. I hope that one day very soon President Obama will utter these words:
In a continuation of the most significant changes in our policy in more than 50 years, we will end an outdated approach that, for decades has failed to advance our interests, and instead, we will begin to normalize relations between our two countries. Through these changes, we intend to create more opportunities for the American and Iranian people, and begin a new chapter among the nations of the World.