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Asian Tribune is published by E-LANKA MEDIA(PVT)Ltd. Vol. 20 No. 81

Iraq Excuse for US Talks with Iran

By Chandramohan - Syndicate Features

So finally, the US has to use the fig leaf of Iraq to shift from its hitherto obdurately held policy of ‘no talks’ with Iran. This is both tragic and comic because for the first time the US now publicly acknowledges two ground realities – first its inability to deal with post-Saddam Iraq on its own; second its need for help of an ‘axis of evil’ country like Iran, and a ‘rogue’ state like Syria. It is a grudging acceptance of an advice nearly the whole world has been tendering for some time now—that the US must start talking directly to Iran if it does not want to add to its, and the world’s, problems.

Amusingly, US officials deny that there has been a change in the ‘no talks with Iran’ policy even though diplomats from Washington will be sitting across the table with their counterparts from Tehran--along with diplomats from Iraq and some friendly and unfriendly countries. Surely when a group gathers to discuss something as serious as the Iraq situation there has to be a lot of inter-action and cross dialogue. You cannot expect one set of participants to come to the table with their mouths firmly shut, not when the US diplomats find themselves face-to-face with interlocutors from Iran, a country that the US says has been helping fuel insurgency in Iraq and attacks on American targets.

Iran and the US have had no diplomatic relations since Washington severed ties in 1980 in the wake of the seizure of its embassy in Tehran by Islamist students. Any official contacts between the two sides would mark a major break in the frozen relations, which have been marked by mutual recriminations and enmity over almost three decades.

Iran's top security official Ali Larijani said last week that Tehran would take part in the conference on Iraq so long as it was in the interests of its violence-plagued neighbour.

It is hard to disbelieve that the US ‘meltdown’ on Iran is unrelated to the U-turn by Washington on its policy towards another ‘axis of evil’ nation, North Korea. The US is going to talk to the North Koreans—after they have exhibited their nuclear capability with an explosion, albeit of a comparatively low scale. At last Washington seems to have realised that its obstinacy in dealing with Iran may push the country into the expanding nuclear club.

The proposed conference on Iraq security is said to be an Iraqi initiative. It may be; it could as well have been the result of behind the scene manoeuvres by the US, which, for reasons of its given relations with Iran, would not have been able to send an invitation to Tehran for any talks. Without the approval of the White House, the puppet regime in Baghdad would have dared to float the idea of a multi-national conference on its security where Iran would be present.

President Bush will probably continue to invent incredulous excuses to justify US decision to attend the Iraq conference. With popularity ratings are hitting rock bottom, he has to swallow pride and engage with one of the pillars of the ‘axis of evil’. The world is concerned with the American or Iranian pride. Its concern will only be about the way the US conducts itself at these talks and the impact on the situation in a highly volatile Iraq.

The US has accused Iran of helping the Shia militia who are gunning for the Sunnis in Iraq. It claims that some arms and ammunition used by these militias bear an Iranian mark. Money and manpower is also said to have been travelling from Iran to Iraq. The Americans may not be entirely wrong but there are few takers for the claim. Such is the credibility of Americans today.

It is possible that Iran is helping at least in some ways the ever-increasing wave of insurgency that has gripped Iraq. One obvious reason is the presence of the ‘Satan’ (US) forces next door. Shia Iran commands influence over the majority Shia population in Iraq. US had aided and abetted Saddam in waging his almost decade long war against Teheran. Iran will be loath to forget this as it articulates its opposition to the presence of American troops in Iraq and wants to undermine the influence of Washington over the present rulers in Baghdad.

US has left no stone unturned in trying to isolate Iran, a democracy by most standards, from the rest of the world. Yet, most countries are still far from convinced that the US recipe of a military action is the best way to deal with Iran or, more specifically, its nuclear programme that is said to be geared for making a bomb.

After two countries have reached a near confrontation stage, it is not going to be easy for one of them to come up with an unambiguous offer of direct talks. But this is precisely what the Iranians did and provided not one but many openings for talks. The Americans negatived all these offers and set a pre-condition for talks - Iran must stop enrichment of uranium before heading for a powwow with the Americans. This pre-condition still holds even as the diplomats of the two nations get ready to sit across the multi-lateral table.

Let us assume for a while that Iran is indeed working towards a nuclear bomb. The sensible course in such an event for the US would be to have a serious dialogue with Teheran but not a policy that is seen as threatening and that provokes and infuriates Iran further.

Almost every nuclear expert in the world agrees that at this stage Iran is at least a couple of years away from making a nuclear bomb, assuming that its enrichment programme proceeds without any hurdles. That should make it possible to achieve a breakthrough with Iran even if talks progress at a leisurely pace.

The US and other nations opposed to a ‘nuclear-armed’ Iran are interested in preventing Iran reaching that ‘final’ stage of capability to drop a nuclear warhead on its enemies. An isolated and sullen Iran, irrespective of the ruler in Tehran, is more likely to reach that frightening stage than a country that is at peace with the rest of the world, particularly the global cop.

If President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad says that uranium enrichment is his right and possessing a nuclear bomb has become a matter of prestige for the Iranians, it is largely because the overwhelming majority of people in the country fear punitive action from the US for reasons they cannot fathom. Nor can many outside the Bush administration.

- Syndicate Features -

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