Behind Zarif's Rebuttal of EU Foreign Policy Chief Mogherini

Russian state-run news service RIA Novosti has reported that a senior official from the group of six world powers has told Javad Zarif, the Iranian foreign minister, that the nuclear talks should immediately conclude if he is not interested in reaching a deal. Iran's news agencies identified that official as European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.

According to RIA, the statement prompted a quick response from Zarif: "Never try to threaten the Iranians." What is behind Zarif's Mogherini riposte?

A familiarity with the intricacies of Iranian culture reveals two socio-psychological sentiments responsible for Zarif's reaction.

The first is the element of pride in the Iranian culture and its pervasive role in the political domain.

For better or worse, Iranians are a very proud people. Iranian pride is rooted in the nation's lengthy civilization and extensive cultural heritages. Pride and national pride are ubiquitous in Iranian culture and discourse. Speeches and academic texts on Iranian identity repeatedly emphasize Iranian pride in the nation's farhang (culture) and tamaddon (civilization). These two notions are a recurring theme in the constructions of Iranian national identity and permeate many components of this identity. The language of threat is perceived as disrespect by the Iranians and provokes harsh reactions.

The second factor is the culture of resistance. In the course of their long history, Iranians have been repeatedly invaded and defeated by "foreign enemies," including the Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Mongols, Ottomans, British and Russians. The result of those invasions and defeats has created a deep sense of victimization. It is no wonder that Iranians are often seeking justice, are combatants, and thus resist bullying and outside force and pressure.