Monday, May 28, 2007

Businesslike Talks After 27 Years

If you have not been talking to someone for 27 years, a simple conversation would be the headline news of town. According to Google there are more than 1’500 news article in English about Iran and USA negotiations. Many reports indicate both countries agree on broad policy issues related to Iraq, and Iranian delegation has announced that both sides will meet again in less than a month. Ambassador Crocker said talks were “businesslike”.

While some in the region could be worried and alarmed by resuming direct diplomatic contacts between two countries, many Iranians are entertaining hopes that negotiations are the first steps in resuming full political relationship and easing the tension between two countries. Reading Iranian media one notices many have voiced their opinions, wishing for positive developments.

Dr. Elham Koulai, a reformist and former Member of Parliament, writes in article for Etemad Melli daily paper in Tehran: “Today American leadership has noticed Iran’s capacities and her potential role in facing the horrible disaster that is going on in Iraq.” She adds: “Iran is not responsible for what is going on in Iraq in anyway. These events are caused by a heritage of centuries of dictatorship and colonial era and Iraq's lack of political development.” She emphasizes: “One should not derail these negotiations by unrealistic expectations. Negotiations for Iraq’s salvation and securing peace and stability in Iraq will prepare the grounds for extending this process to other issues if and only if the USA appreciates Iran’s constructive role and the positive consequences of such cooperation and does not repeat the experience of Afghanistan.”

Mr. Aghamohammadi, a senior advisor to Iran’s National Security Council and a member of Iran’s Expediency Discernment Council also expresses his views in an article for Etemad Melli. He writes “One should not expect this kind of negotiations to be speedy.” He warns that the USA has been and is an active hostile power. He adds “Although negotiations might have been initiated because of tactical necessities, the important point is that it took place on the behest of Iraq’s government.” He concludes his note by remarking: “If Iran persuades Americans to fulfill their obligations to Iraqi people and If a timetable for troops withdrawal is announced, there will be a chance that the region moves toward regional cooperation and stability.”

Mashallah Shamsolvaezin a veteran journalist and the editor of banned Jame’e and Tous dailies has published his views in Shargh daily. He emphasizes that the first meeting was a “test” meeting to achieve a “somehow realistic assessment of the other side capabilities and conditions”. He also believes that Baghdad is a gate toward resolving more issues. However he warns that any agreement between Iran and USA could disturb the balance of Iraq’s “losers” and “winners” in the region. He concludes: "This might encourage some countries to sabotage the process".

Not every one in Iran is enthusiastic about the idea of negotiating with the USA. Jomhourie-Islami[1] daily editorial columnist notices Ambassador Crocker’s remarks and “allegations” and writes: “The suspect is sitting in the judge’s chair and considers Iran to be the suspect… one should consider the fact that negotiation with USA is not precisely a calculated step ….. And it should not be continued.”

Recent news of CIA plans for disturbing domestic stability in Iran is certainly hurting those who advocate a diplomatic course. It also is apparent that many in Iran have been offended by the way Iran was treated after cooperating constructively with the coalition in Afghanistan. Meanwhile they sincerely wish security and stability for both Iraq and Afghanistan in order to guarantee Iran’s security. At the moment it seems that even the pessimists in Iran want to give diplomacy a serious chance. It is up to the USA to take this chance seriously.

Some interesting articles and analysis:
Los Angeles Times’ Article:
Guardian’s Article:
NPR Analysis
BBC Readers’ Comments are insightful

[1] Although a conservative publication Jomhourie Islami editorials have been critical of President Ahmadinejad’s administration and his policies.

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