“Observe good faith and justice toward all Nations.” – George Washington

Last month the Obama administration actually did something right for a change. The Iran agreement marked a step in the right direction for our policy in the Middle East. This, along with normalizing relations with Cuba, is the kind of diplomacy that will lead to peaceful, positive change.

We would do well to remember that Iran didn’t start this crisis. The crisis didn’t start with Iranians overthrowing the Shah and taking of American hostages in 1979. It started when the U.S. CIA overthrew the democratically elected Iranian government of Mohammed Mosaddegh in 1953, and installed a brutal dictator (the Shah) in his place.

Then, as the Cold War began to wind down, the U.S. military-industrial complex started looking for a new “threat” to replace the Soviet Union to ensure continued war profiteering. And so Iran was chosen as a convenient bogeyman. Sadly, our own CIA National Intelligence Estimate of 2007 later proved the stories about Iran building a nuclear weapon were all lies. In fact, Iran’s nuclear energy program was never found to be in violation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Despite the facts, the lies continue to this day in order to enrich military contractors, who in turn make generous donations to congressional and presidential election campaigns.

So, in 1984 the U.S. government imposed crippling sanctions on Iran. Like all sanctions, this did much more to harm innocent Iranian citizens than it did to punish Iranian government leaders. Sanctions are a cruel act of war, and since we never declared war against Iran, they were never justified. The Iran agreement finally ends these sanctions, and opens up opportunities for American businesses and people to trade with Iranian businesses and people. This is where real diplomacy begins, at the person-to-person level: New business ventures, tourism, student exchanges, etc.

Of course there are those who will cry that Iran is a state sponsor of terrorism and so crippling sanctions must be imposed, that irrational violence is part of the Iranian national character. If that’s so then why do we trade with Germany, who at one time was a state sponsor of genocide? Why do we trade with Italy who was a state sponsor of fascism? With Russian who was a state sponsor of millions of political killings? With Japan who violently discriminated against Koreans, Okinawans and Chinese? Are these critics prepared to impose this condemn-an-entire-people principle on China who continues to violate the human rights of their citizens? On the contrary, history has shown that open trade leads to peace and a safer world to live in.

In 2009 travel personality Rick Steves visited Iran to show that the U.S. media and government demonization of Iranians was a lie. He showed how this type of travel and the human contact it fosters can help defeat the myths of warmongering politicians who attempt to demonize an entire people. Peace and prosperity take root from friendly relations and trade. Governments just need to get out of the way and let the citizens of both countries make it happen.

“Peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations; entangling alliances with none.” – Thomas Jefferson

John Pickerill is the chairman of the Montgomery County Republican Party. The views expressed in this article are his own and are not necessarily intended to reflect the position of the Montgomery County Republican Central Committee.