Paul KerrIran-US Talks

One claim I have frequently heard from opponents/skeptics of US engagement with Iran is that Tehran has frequently rejected Washington’s past overtures.

So I’d be interested to know if there is any truth to this afternoon’s FT article:

Iran has prepared a high-level delegation to hold wide-ranging talks with the US, but the Bush administration is resisting the agenda suggested by Tehran despite pressure from European allies to engage the Islamic republic, Iranian politicians have told the Financial Times.

A senior Iranian official, Mohammad Nahavandian, has flown to Washington to “lobby” over the issue, aaccording to a top Iranian adviser outside the US. However, the Iranian mission to the United Nations insisted he was in Washington on private business.

Iran’s willingness to engage the US on Iraq, regional security and the nuclear issue, is believed to have the approval of the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. It represents the most serious attempt by the Islamic republic to reach out to the US since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

But the White House insisted on Thursday that its own offer of talks with Iran, extended several months ago by Zalmay Khalilzad, the US ambassador to Baghdad, was limited to the subject of Iraq.
“There are none and none are scheduled,” Stephen Hadley, national security adviser, was quoted by a spokesman as saying about the prospect of talks with the Iranian delegation in Baghdad next week.

A senior Iranian adviser said the Iranian delegation was headed by Ali Hossein-Tash, the main deputy to Ali Larijani who is secretary of the Supreme National Security Council and the chief official dealing with the nuclear issue. Three other negotiators, all attached to the Council, include a deputy intelligence minister who was previously based in Baghdad, a former Revolutionary Guards member and Kurdish expert, and a political specialist.

Mr Nahavandian, a deputy for economic affairs to Mr Larijani, is in Washington, several Iranian sources told the FT, revealing the rare presence of a senior Iranian in the US capital. White House and State Department officials denied all knowledge of his presence.

The Bush administration is resisting pressure from its European allies to engage Iran directly over its alleged nuclear weapons programme rather than leave negotiations to the EU3 of France, Germany and the UK. Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the German foreign minister, raised this issue with Mr Hadley this week, and Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, is understood to have spoken about it with President George W. Bush.

Anyone seen Mr. Nahavandian walking around?


  1. Ali
  2. Haninah

    Well, anyone else seen Hersh’s piece in the New Yorker (available online)? Thoughts? Looks like Joe Cirincione was right….

  3. mark gubrud (History)

    The Bush gang’s policy on Iran has been guided primarily by the desire to create or maintain a set of enemies (the “Axis or Evil”) which serve to justify militarism, weapons spending, the destruction of arms control and international order, torture, domestic repression and when it suits them, aggressive war. That is the program of the Bush gang, and has been from day one, well before 9/11 gave them the power to realize this program.

    Just as the need to invade Iraq in 2002/2003 arose from Bush’s political crisis after the easy rout of the Taliban and al Qaeda, the current “crisis” over Iran’s long-brewing nuclear project is primarily driven by the current need for a Next War (whether or not that war ever comes to pass) now that Iraq is seen as a quagmire and Afghanistan is all but forgotten.

    Once we acknowledge the underlying motivation, it is no mystery why the Bush gang is uninterested in any prospect for engagement much less resolution of its issues with Iran. It follows that Bush policy toward Iran should consist of threats, denunciations, calculated nonstarter positions, and an effort, in John Bolton’s words, to use the Security Council “to mobilize international public opinion against Iran”, i.e., not to conduct war, if necessary, by legal authority, but to legitimize the threat of another illegal war.

    The Bush gang probably is in no hurry to start another hot war, given the predicament in Iraq and the lack of any sane rationale for an attack on Iran. But they are very anxious to raise the threat of a new war, primarily for domestic political consumption. As we have seen before, once that ball starts rolling, it can be hard to stop.

  4. Joe Cirincione (History)

    Thank, Haninah. I was hoping I was wrong.

    Dan Froomikin has posted on the Neiman Watchdog site an excellent set of nine questions the press should ask the administration about its Iran war plans. You can see them and think of a couple more to add here:

  5. Matt Bunn (History)

    This is fully consistent with Flynt Leverett’s report that in 2003 Iran formally proposed a U.S.-Iranian dialogue to address all the key outstanding issues between the two countries, but the Bush administration refused. Leverett was Senior Director on the NSC staff for the that part of the world. This is discussed in his New York Times piece earlier this year.

  6. Paul

    Agreed. To be clear, I was referring to the specific meeting discussed in the FT piece. I didn’t mean to imply that it is the only indication of Iran’s wish to engage with the US.

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