Recently, I was having a discussion with an informed friend regarding Iranian politics. My friend explained to me the importance of the notion of “justice.” He attended a confidential meeting in Tehran regarding the formation of the Iraqi government.
During that meeting, a prominent Iraqi politician nominated himself as an alternative to the two main candidates: the current Prime Minister Maliki and the former Prime Minister Allawi. However, his nomination was challenged (and later was denied) based on the notion of justice.
This politician did not initially receive sufficient votes to occupy a seat in the parliament. He only acquired the seat, because another candidate gave him the extra votes needed to get a seat. See my previous posting on the electoral system in Iraq.
Thus, other candidates framed their argument against his nomination around the notion of justice, saying it was unjust to accept his nomination on the grounds that, he owed his seat to their donations of votes.
Therefore, his nomination would not be fair to them, since they acquired enough votes on their own to occupy a seat in the parliament.
The Iranian leadership, who facilitated that meeting, agreed with this argument.
The notion of justice was and still is a foundation of the Iranian worldview, including politics and international affairs.
The notion of justice influenced the Iranian culture since the 10th century BC when their prophet and philosopher Zoroaster preached the Kingdom of Justice and Fairness .
My friend further disclosed that the Iranian regime faced difficulties oppressing the Iranian election protesters who disputed the victory of Iranian president Ahmadinejad in June of this year. Some of the protesters utilized the notion of justice and convinced the security forces to let go of them. These were individual cases. However, (and according to my friend) the security service officials were influenced by the notion of justice.
That story inspired me to recall the statement made by Secretary Clinton demanding the release of three American hikers who crossed over into Iran from Iraq. Secretary Clinton urged the Iranian government to release the hikers saying “there is no evidence to support any charge [of espionage] whatsoever,” and further urged the Iranian government “to exercise compassion,” and requested their immediate release. However, exercising compassion could be understood by the Iranian government as although they are guilty, however, we ask you to pardon them because they are suffering.
Had Secretary Clinton demanded the hikers release based on the notion of justice, then she would have strengthened their position. I truly believe that Secretary Clinton could have achieved better results by issuing statements such as:
Based on the notion of justice, the hikers are innocent people who crossed the borders by mistake. It is not fair to arrest innocent hikers who were wearing tennis shoes and could not speak any Farsi. It is fair to ask the Iranian government to reveal any evidence that was used as the basis for its claims.
This is what I mean by better results: framing the argument in a way that would ally the Iranian people's support and create a pressure on the government from within.
The idea of justice is central to the Iranian mind setting and can be utilized to pressure the Iranian government.
I think the US diplomacy can utilize the nation of justice as a foreign policy tool to promote the US interest.
 To learn more about Zoroaster, please read Mary Boyce, A History of Zoroastrianism: Volume 1, The Early Period 1975