As the Iran nuclear negotiations near their self-imposed deadline of November 24th, Jon Stewart adds his atypically subtle commentary to the fray through his new film Rosewater. Rosewater, which depicts the 2009 Iranian political protests and the imprisonment of a reporter covering the election controversy, comes out at a particularly crucial moment in US-Iran relations. But while a cursory glance may arouse the assumption that the film is meant to demonize Iran, Stewart insists that is simply not the case.
When asked if his film would be used as a weapon against the nuclear deal with Iran, Stewart was blunt: “For those that don’t want a deal, they will use anything to sabotage it on both sides… You cannot control what idiots will weaponize, and to censor yourself for their ignorance would be a mistake.” In fact, the film is a good reminder of why diplomacy through negotiations with Iran, especially with the November 24th nuclear deal deadline approaching, should continue to be supported. Here are three examples of how themes from Stewart’s Rosewater parallel the Iran negotiations:
1. Iran Responds to International Pressure: The film highlights international pressure as an effective tool in ending the internment of protagonist Maziar Bahari. Similarly, there is an international coalition of support behind the Iran nuclear negotiations and the sanction regime that has brought Iran to the table. This is a proven recipe for success when dealing with Iran and it is in the U.S.’s interest to maintain international support. By adopting extreme demands or flatly rejecting a deal that would monitor and verify Iran’s nuclear activities, the U.S. would break the international support and sanctions regime, leaving Iran to engage in nuclear activities as they please.
2. Iran is not a monolith; violence hurts the innocent: The film depicts socially conscious Iranian youth fighting for their political freedom. Launching a bombing campaign, as is a likely scenario if negotiations break down and Iran pursues a bomb, without first giving every opportunity to diplomatic solutions puts those innocents at risk. Maziar Bahari, the reporter whose story this film examines, perfectly articulates this point: “For those ‘bomb, bomb’ people — for American people in general — it’s important to understand that when you’re bombing a people, you’re not only bombing the intelligence organizations or the Revolutionary Guards.”
3. Iran will do what it takes for self-preservation: The government of Iran’s interest, both in the film and in reality, is in self-preservation. A country who is comfortable repressing its own citizens will surely feel comfortable developing a nuclear weapon for regime-preserving capabilities. But the current Joint Plan of Action has halted nuclear activity in Iran and has been verified by the International Atomic Energy Agency. Failure to reach a deal sends Iran on its way without monitoring, under besiege by further US sanctions, and arguably in need of a nuclear bomb. Adopting a good deal keeps the freeze on Iran’s nuclear weapons ambitions; opposing the diplomatic process gives Iran a reason to sprint towards a nuclear weapon.
Whether you watch Rosewater for its political commentary, its inspirational message, or purely for its entertainment value, keep a keen eye on how far US-Iran relations has come since the 2009 Green Revolution. Failing to give diplomacy a chance would negate the progress made over the last year of negotiations and lead down a path towards conflict that is not in interest of the United States, its allies, or even Iran.