NEWS & OPINION: How to engage Iran; Iraq seeks Gulf security pact including Iran

How to defuse Iran

Iran has tried tactical cooperation with the United States several times over the past two decades — including helping to secure the release of hostages from Lebanon in the late 1980s and sending shipments of arms to Bosnian Muslims when the United States was forbidden to do so.

Yet each time, Tehran’s expectations of reciprocal good will have been dashed by American condemnation of perceived provocations in other arenas, as when Iranian support for objectives in Afghanistan after the 9/11 attacks was rewarded by President Bush’s inclusion of Iran in the “axis of evil.” Today, incremental engagement cannot overcome deep distrust between Washington and Tehran — certainly not rapidly enough to address America’s security concerns.

From an Iranian perspective, serious engagement would start with American willingness to recognize Tehran’s legitimate security and regional interests as part of an overall settlement of our differences. But neither Republicans nor Democrats have been willing to consider such an approach, because of the pursuit of a nuclear weapons option and support for terrorist organizations that Iran employs to defend what it sees as its fundamental security interests. Successful United States-Iran engagement requires cutting through this Gordian knot by undertaking comprehensive diplomacy encompassing the core concerns of both sides.

From the American side, any new approach must address Iran’s security by clarifying that Washington is not seeking regime change in Tehran, but rather changes in the Iranian government’s behavior. (While Secretary Rice has said recently that overthrowing the mullahs is not United States policy, President Bush has pointedly refused to affirm her statements.) To that end, the United States should be prepared to put a few assurances on the table. [complete article]

Iraq wants Iran in Gulf security pact

Iraq’s national security adviser yesterday called on Gulf states to form a regional security pact, which would include Iran, while he reassured the area’s US allies that Baghdad is “heading West” in its foreign policies. But Mouaffak al-Rubaie also criticised Saudi Arabia and Iran for what he called settling scores on Iraqi soil and called for regional reconciliation that put sectarian differences aside.

“It is extremely important to have a regional reconciliation rather than having this heightened sectarian tension in the region,” he told delegates at a security conference held in the Bahraini capital.

“That is why Iraq is looking seriously to call for a regional security pact like the good old (1954 anti-Soviet alliance) Baghdad Pact or a Nato-style pact, with a set agenda: counter terrorism, counter narcotics, counter religious extremism and counter sectarianism,” he said. [complete article]

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