Saturday, December 09, 2006

Iran, early response to new diplomatic initiative ...

Long and excellent summary of US-Iran relations post-OIF,
Engaging Iran on Iraq: At What Price and to What End?
By Patrick Clawson December 5, 2006

The United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran have a long history of direct bilateral talks. For example, during the Taliban days, the two sides met often about Afghanistan, though always with at least one outside representative present to maintain the official cover that the talks were not bilateral. Iranian and American officials also met before and during the United States’ entry into Iraq, convening at least three times in 2003—in January, March, and May—to discuss the Iraq situation. While a UN official opened each meeting to preserve the fiction that they were not bilateral sessions, the official soon left the two delegations on their own.

Direct U.S.-Iranian talks ceased in 2003.

On October 19, 2005, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced, “We have considered whether contacts that are specifically related to Iraq might be useful between Ambassador [to Iraq Zalmay] Khalilzad and his counterpart on the same basis that we had them, essentially, in Afghanistan.” Administration officials later clarified that such talks were in fact authorized. Khalilzad is a native Persian speaker who conducted pre-invasion talks with Iran about Afghanistan. On October 20 [notice how prompt their public diplomacy 're-action' is ...], 2005, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi stated that Iran saw no reason to talk to the United States until it “revises its behavior and attitude,” a view repeatedly echoed by other Iranian officials in the following months.

On March 16, 2006, five months after Rice made the offer for talks, Iranian National Security Council secretary Ali Larijani accepted the offer, saying, “We agree to talk to the Americans,” while emphasizing that Iran was acting because of a request by Abdalaziz al-Hakim, leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI). However, that position was reversed by President Mahmoud Ahmadinezhad, who stated on April 24, “By God’s will, we think that right now, because of the presence of a permanent government in Iraq, there is no need” for talks with the United States.
[continue reading, high reccomended summary of Iranian views accross the political spectrum]

In the LA Times (before ISG-Report):

An official Iranian source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Iran's position was unchanged and continued to urge a quick U.S. withdrawal.

"We oppose the Western forces continuing the occupation there. As long as they are there, we think the violence in this situation will continue, and it does not help whatsoever the stability in the region," he said.

Another official source echoed that view. "Why would the U.S. think that their rapid withdrawal would be rejected by Iran? Do they think their presence is a help? Iran thinks it is not," he said.

From the redoubtable BBC, although it is hard to judge the basis or veractiy of these items:

Iran wants a wholesale transformation of its relationship with the United States, which is one of the most antagonistic in the world. [by their choice? for their purpose?]

At the moment attention of the US and its allies is on Iran's nuclear programme which they say is intended to produce a non-conventional military capability.

Iran wants to be allowed to continue its programme - including uranium enrichment - which it says is completely peaceful [but ignores the IAEA's requests that might shed light on that assertion?] as well as its right under the international non-proliferation regime.

That means an end to the threat of UN sanctions - which Tehran has been able to avoid so far - and an end to US and Israeli threats of military action to destroy its nuclear facilities.

In the past, Tehran has had its fingers burnt [?] by trying to open a dialogue with this most hawkish of US administrations.

In May 2003, for example, it offered to open up its nuclear programme, rein in Hezbollah and co-operate against al-Qaeda, but was reportedly rebuffed as the insistence of former Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Vice-President Dick Cheney. [is that all true?]


“In my personal opinion, the Arab League needs to talk to Iran,” says El Reedy, who is a member of CFR’s international advisory committee and chairman of the Egyptian Council on Foreign Relations. El Reedy says “Iran is already a power, a force, a factor, in the Middle East and the Arab nations.” He said if high-level talks are held between Iran and leading Arab states, “then we could maybe find some intermediary and the feelings could cool off” in Lebanon.

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