NEWS, ANALYSIS & OPINION: The unfolding complexity of the Iran narrative

Iran turns the charm on its neighbors

By engaging Iran and welcoming Ahmadinejad, the GCC states (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – UAE) led by Saudi Arabia, which recently offered to set up a regional facility for producing nuclear fuel for Iran, are hoping to play an effective, moderating influence on Tehran, which has been rattling them with what the GCC media routinely refer to as “extreme statements by Iran”.

But, Ahmadinejad, who last week told a visiting foreign dignitary that “through love and kindness the regional problems can disappear”, is now about to resurrect the “charm offensive” that one of his predecessors, former president Hashemi Rafsanjani, tried with the GCC states a decade and a half ago.

Iran’s new charm offensive is packed with substantially more weight, however, as Iran is broadly viewed in the region as a clear winner of the Iraq war, “controlling the main centers of power within the Iraqi state”, according to a Saudi commentary, not to mention the influence it wields in Lebanon and, potentially, among Shi’ite minorities in eastern Saudi Arabia and elsewhere in the GCC region. [complete article]

A partner for dealing with Iran?

The effort to resolve by negotiations North Korea’s defiance of the global nonproliferation regime may yet prove successful. If so, does that experience offer a guide for coping with the challenge posed by Iran’s expanding nuclear program? Would a comprehensive dialogue on this issue between America and China be useful?

If, indeed, the prolonged negotiations with North Korea result in a constructive resolution of the dangers posed by Pyongyang’s open pursuit of nuclear weapons, it will have been largely due to decisive changes in the public postures of both the United States and China. America belatedly committed itself to, and then actively promoted, serious and prolonged multilateral negotiations among five concerned states and North Korea’s rulers. Even more important, China’s abandonment of its initial reticence eventually proved vital to convincing Pyongyang that its own political intransigence could become suicidal.

I recently visited China, where I had the opportunity to engage Chinese leaders in wide-ranging private conversations. I returned with two strong impressions regarding China’s attitude toward the Iranian problem. The first is that the magnitude of China’s internal transformation makes it vulnerable to global political and economic instability. China is especially worried about the consequences of any major eruption of violence in the Persian Gulf. This concern is palpable and justified if one considers the likely financial and political effects of a major U.S.-Iran collision. Thus China, despite its meteoric rise toward global preeminence, currently is geopolitically a status quo power. [complete article]

In Iraq, U.S. shifts its tone on Iran

Not long ago, U.S. military officials in Iraq routinely displayed rockets, mortars and jagged chunks of metal to reporters and insisted that they were Iranian-made arms being fired at American bases. Collaboration between Tehran and Washington on stabilizing Iraq seemed doubtful at best.

In the last two months, though, there has been a shift in U.S. military and diplomatic attitudes toward Iran. Officials have backed away from sweeping accusations that the Iranian leadership is orchestrating massive smuggling of arms, agents and ammunition. Instead, they have agreed to a new round of talks with Iranian and Iraqi officials over security in Iraq. The meeting is expected to take place this month.

The U.S. also freed nine Iranian men last month, some of whom it had been holding since 2004. Iran denied U.S. accusations that many of them had been assisting anti-U.S. militias in Iraq, and had demanded their release in a series of testy exchanges with U.S. officials.

When the U.S. freed them, it did not allude to the Iranian demands. It said only that they no longer posed a threat.

Pentagon officials and analysts cite several reasons for the change, including U.S. concern that provoking Iran could set off a confrontation that military commanders are keen to avoid, and the realization that better relations with Iran would help stabilize Iraq. [complete article]

See also, U.S. says too soon to trust Iran on Iraq (AFP).

Iranian pushes nuclear talks back to square 1

In a sign that Iran has hardened its position on its nuclear program, its new nuclear negotiator said in talks in London on Friday that all proposals made in past negotiations were irrelevant and that further discussion of a curb on Iran’s uranium enrichment was unnecessary, senior officials briefed on the meeting said.

The Iranian official, Saeed Jalili, also told Javier Solana, who represented the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany in the five-hour talks, that United Nations Security Council resolutions punishing Iran for not suspending its enriched uranium activities were illegal, the officials said.

Representatives of the six countries met in Paris on Saturday afternoon to discuss further punitive Security Council measures against Iran after the final talks in London failed to produce a breakthrough. [complete article]

Iran’s reformers to U.S.: Let’s talk

Former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami and Nobel Peace Prize-winner Shirin Ebadi are among several key Iranian public figures saying that only direct, unconditional talks with the US can ease spiraling tensions.

Mr. Khatami – the reformist cleric who was twice elected in landslide victories – and Ms. Ebadi – a human rights lawyer who just launched a National Peace Council – are suggesting that hard-liners in the US and Iran should no longer dictate the terms of division. One Iranian analyst says: It’s time to call the bluff on both sides – and talk.

“The solution is for both sides to resort to logic, refrain from provocative rhetoric, and put the emphasis on negotiations,” Khatami told the Monitor. [complete article]

Print Friendly, PDF & Email