Thursday, January 18, 2007

Iran's Diplomatic Overture

An interesting story on negotiations with Iraq has been making the rounds today and though the story itself first broke a while ago, I thought it would be good to review the story as quite few people (BBC news even!) missed it the first time round.

In the Spring of 2003, Iran sent the U.S. State Department a two-page fax outlining a proposal for a broad dialog between the two countries. The letter, a copy of which I've made available here, implied that everything was on the table, including full cooperation on nuclear programs, acceptance of Israel, termination of support to Palestinian militant groups and "coordination of Iranian influence for activity supporting political stabilization and the establishment of democratic institutions and a nonreligious government."

While State Department officials seriously considered the offer, ultimately the administration decided to reject it. The administration believed that the Iranian government weak and preferred a policy of regime change to diplomacy.

This was obviously quite the opportunity and such a promising overture from Iran is quite unlikely to be repeated today. The fax was sent after the capture of Baghdad when everything appeared to be going right in Iraq for the U.S. and Iran did not yet have a functioning nuclear program nor the level of oil revenues it enjoys today. As a member of the administration's "axis of evil," Iran was sincerely frightened by the prospect of facing a force that had in three weeks routed an army that Iran failed to defeat in 8 years.

Today, Iran has the upper-hand. As I mentioned in an earlier post: its influence in the region continues to grow, the majority population of Iraq (Shia) have a close connection with Iran giving it considerable power within Iraq, its nuclear enrichment program continues undeterred and its President is certain that the 12th Imam will soon return- "a certitude that leaves little room for compromise" as Scott Peterson of the Christian Science Monitor explains.

Furthermore, as Trita Parsi, a Middle East expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, explains, the incident "strengthened the hands of those in Iran who believe the only way to compel the United States to talk or deal with Iran is not by sending peace offers but by being a nuisance."


2 comments:

John T. said...

perhaps the BBC is rerunning the story because of Rice's visit to the Mideast where she is claiming that Iran has been and likely will be for the near future anyway, unwilling to negotiate with the US.

Matteo Tomasini said...

hmm good point, harder to paint Iran as diplomatically unapproachable when in fact they have asked the US to the table at least once.

 
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