Iran’s Surprising Offer

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Surprising news of direct talks proposed between Iran and the U.S. regarding Iraq

A senior Iranian official said Thursday that Iran would enter into direct talks with the United States about Iraq, opening the way for the two countries to hold their first face-to-face discussion about Iran’s western neighbor since shortly after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.

Yes, one may argue, a number of points as to why this action should be viewed as significant enough to warrant hope …

-How can the Iranian leadership be trusted?

– What will make these discussions credible?

“We have got to solve the issues in accordance to today’s situation,” Larijani said, apparently alluding to the presence of U.S. troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, where they deposed governments that Iran regarded as enemies. “The facts on the ground have changed a lot.”

“We can create stability and security in the region. But not with the sort of rhetoric and language Mr. Bolton is using. What is needed is sensible people who can think of a long-term plan.”

Larijani was referring to John R. Bolton, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, who said last month that Iran faced “tangible and painful consequences” if it continued with its nuclear activities, which Washington says are aimed at building atomic weapons. Iran in turn threatened to inflict “harm and pain” on the United States if U.N. sanctions were imposed.

There certainly has been enough rhetoric and threats being thrown back and forth regarding Iran’s nuclear program. A true Iranian standoff in its relationship with the U.S. has been in place for more than a quarter of a century.

What will make the difference in these talks?

Hadley said the White House would “look at any kind of conversation” with Iran beyond the issue of Iraq but was leery of bilateral discussions for fear they would crack the consensus Washington has helped build with Europe against Iran’s nuclear program. He said the solidarity of the international community seemed to finally be having an effect on Iran.

“We are, I think, beginning to get indications that the Iranians are finally beginning to listen,” he said. “And there is beginning to be a debate within the leadership and, I would hope, a debate between the leadership and their people about whether the course they are on is the right course for the good of their country.”

So, perhaps there are forces at work, both internal with the Iranian populace and external with the influence of the international community, that could give these talks more credence.

At the same time, Iran has reason to worry that the recent rise in sectarian fighting in Iraq could erupt into civil war. Tehran is itself facing unrest in border areas where non-Persian minorities overlap into Iraq — ethnic Kurds in the northwest and Arabs in the southwest.

“I think Iran’s and the United States’ short-term interests in Iraq actually coincide,” said Ray Takeyh of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Similar short-term interests, at present, are what look to be key in distinguishing this round of talks. The adage of “people operating in their own best interests,” seems to be well illustrated in prompting this offer.

Now, how to parlay a longer-term strategy where U.S. and Middle Eastern countries’ interests coincide?

Is there a common ground that can be agreed upon?

History is brimming full of seemingly hopeless standoffs among warring factions that took centuries to resolve into more peaceful coexistence i.e. France, England, Spain, and the Holy Roman Empire.

Oftentimes, it literally took a marriage between ruling families of different nations to bring about an end to the hostilities – at least between the respective countries’ inhabitants … the rulers, on the other hand, may have still had their share of “knock down, drag outs” that occurred from time to time. 🙂

One has to wonder, is there a place for technology to speed along the process of marrying interests to create ties that strengthen, rather than choke, relationships among today’s world power brokers?

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