“It’s about American trustworthiness which, at the moment, is very low,” said Rouzbeh Parsi, a senior lecturer in history at Lund University. Parsi, who is also the director of the European Iran Research Group, and another speaker, Kevan Harris, discussed the state of Iran-U.S. relations, Iranian politics, and the Iran nuclear deal in a panel Tuesday.
“Everyone thought that the biggest danger that could derail this agreement would be the Iranians cheating in the deal,” Parsi said. “As it turns out, the Iranians have been quite stable in their commitment to the agreement and the party that has become the biggest headache is the United States.”
In the panel, Kevan Harris, an assistant professor of sociology at UCLA and the lead researcher for the Iran Social Survey, began by speaking about the 2016 social survey he conducted in Iran, helping inform the discourse about Iran.
“This is the first social relations survey in Iran,” Harris said. “Most of the polls in Iran have largely been public opinion polls. As a sociologist, I’m interested not just in opinion, but also in relations between individuals, between families, between regions, and between individuals and the state government and how that’s changed over time.”
The survey consisted of 5,005 phone interviews conducted in November and December of 2016. Harris noted that response rates to polls in Iran are generally high — 64 percent in this particular survey.
Harris explained that there were several features which made the survey he conducted different from typical public opinion polls. A key point was asking open-ended questions about people’s ethnicity, as opposed to providing a list of options from which the participant could choose.
“The whole society has transformed within the last two generations with urbanization, marriage, high education, and that affects the way that people understand their own identity in ethnic terms,” Harris said. After asking the open-ended questions, the responses were coded into categories.
Harris’s survey examined voting patterns across demographics during both the 2013 presidential election and the 2016 parliamentary elections.
“We know that Iranians vote, and they vote at much higher rates,” he explained. “Few studies have tracked vote choice across elections. There is sophisticated vote shopping among some groups of Iranian voters, and they can be swayed. Part of [politics] is swaying individuals to vote one way or another.”
Harris’s survey provided political context in which Parsi could explain nuclear development in Iran and the current nuclear agreement between the United States and Iran.
“The first thing we have to remember is that the nuclear deal is a multilateral agreement and therefore the U.S. cannot dismantle it on its own,” Parsi said.
“Even the promise of not destroying the deal turned out to be difficult to uphold because the person who did get elected has been shall we say, rather hell-bent, to try and derail the deal,” Parsi added.
Parsi added that the United States imposing sanctions on Iran would only isolate the United States and not Iran, as most other nations agree that the deal is working. He said that President Trump is trying to destroy the deal “through a thousand papercuts.”
After the talk, audience members voiced appreciation for the speakers’ work.
“It was really quite informative, particularly in understanding the complexities of voter tendencies in Iran and how they are so very different from those in the U.S,” one audience member said. Another said that they appreciated the “focus on how Iran has continuously cooperated and upheld its end of the deal, as that’s something people may overlook.”
Current University student, Xiyue Wang GS, is currently being held in Iran after being sentenced to 10 years in prison for espionage in July.
The lecture, sponsored by the Center for Iran and Persian Gulf Studies, took place on Oct. 10 in Richardson Hall.