Progress in Iraq security talks is key to future relationship, say analysts
TEHRAN, Iran: As U.S. President George W. Bush declared a primary goal of his upcoming tour of the Middle East was to drum up support for further isolating Iran, the country’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Seyyid Ali Khamenei said that restoring diplomatic ties with Washington at this time would be “detrimental to Iran’s interests.”
Speaking to a gathering in the central Iranian city of Yazd on Thursday, Ayatollah Khamenei said, “Severing diplomatic ties with the United States was one of Iran’s original principle policies, but Tehran has never said that it would pursue this policy forever.”
While the comments appear to open the door to a possible rapprochement between the two bitter enemies, political analysts agree that key to any future thaw would be progress in the Iraq security talks, one of the few occasions where the two sides actually sit down face-to-face.
“I think it all depends on what comes out of the negotiations between Iran and the United States concerning Iraq,” Ebrahim Yazdi, former Iranian Foreign Minister and Secretary General of the Freedom Movement of Iran told PressTV’s Middle East Today forum. “It’s a good start. If they could come up with some common interest, some common agreement, and if the American government shows some realistic approach and changes their policy, changes their attitude, then yes it [diplomatic ties] is possible.”
However, analysts are not optimistic there will be any serious breakthrough in the foreseeable future, and certainly not during the Bush presidency.
Dr. Robert Naiman, Senior Policy Analyst at the Oregon-based Just Foreign Policy Institute pointed out that the initiative for the security talks came from Baghdad, and not from Washington or Tehran.
“Keep in mind this was a dialogue that was requested by Baghdad,” he told Middle East Today, “The Iraqi government asked the United States and Iran to cooperate on helping bring about security and stability in Iraq.”
Naiman said that the Iraqi government obviously has good relations with the United States and Iran, and used this leverage to bring the two sides together.
“First of all,” he said, “Baghdad asked the U.S. and Iran to settle their differences elsewhere, do not settle them here, do not use Iraq as a proxy for fighting whatever you want to fight about.”
Out of their common respect for Iraq, Naiman said, Washington and Tehran were coaxed to the negotiating table to discuss security issues.
“The fact is, the United States and Iran have many common interests in Iraq, so it would be very strange if they had spurned this request from the head of a friendly government to cooperate. “
And in the foreseeable future, Naiman said, “I see that as the most positive way forward in terms of U.S. and Iranian relations.”
Analysts agree, however, there needs to be a fundamental change in the way Washington formulates its overall foreign policy before any substantive progress can be made in relations with Iran.
“I am afraid the problem is that the United States has this general problem with every nation, it is not just Iran,” Professor William Beeman of Minnesota University told PressTV, “Look at the situation in Pakistan for example. The United States doesn’t have a clue about the political situation there, or in many other countries for that matter.”
Even as Bush prepares for his first presidential trip to Israel and other Middle East countries this week, Beeman said the foreign policy strategy for the final year of the Bush administration remains unclear, but at least a military strike against Iran now appears to be off the table.
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