Iran and U.S. need prolonged, quiet dialogue: strategic analyst

July 21, 2007 - 0:0

TEHRAN - Iran and the United States are poised for a second round of direct talks about Iraq. Both Iranian Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki and the U.S. State Department said they were ready to grapple over the war-wracked nation, since they last held face-to-face talks on May 28.

In an interview with the Mehr News Agency dated July 15, Ehsan Ahrari - an independent strategic analyst residing in Alexandria, U.S. - argued that Tehran and Washington need a prolonged and quiet dialogue it is possible that something “constructive will come out” if the Islamic Republic of Iran and the United States continue talks. Following is the text of the interview: Q: Iran and the United States are gearing up for a new round of discussions on Iraq. Do you believe anything constructive will come out of U.S.-Iran talks? A: There is always a possibility that something constructive will come out as long the two adversaries keep talking. However, there are a number of issues that Iran and the United States are pursuing need prolonged and a quiet dialogue. For instance, the U.S. still has legislation that are aimed at ""regime change"" in Iran. Even though they seek regime change through non-military means; however, Iran envisions those legislation as ""hostile."" But Iran is likely to change its policies once there are sufficient guarantees from Washington that it has no intentions of pursuing regime change in Iran. Then there is that larger nuclear issue. There are considerable amount of speculations in the West that Iran really wishes to develop nuclear weapons. In order to assuage the concerns of the (Persian) Gulf states and the West, Iran has to make its nuclear facilities readily available for the inspection of the IAEA. However, even on this issue, in my view, Iran might be flexible, if there are ample payoffs and security guarantees from the U.S. side. Q: Is there any firm support for a second round of talks on both sides? Who are against the talks in the U.S.? A: I have not seen any evidence of ""firm support, but I believe that both sides will continue to talk. The U.S. side knows that Iran enjoys considerable advantages in Iraq and Lebanon. Its stock is way up in the ME because of the continuing U.S. difficulties in Iraq and because of the outcome of the Hezbollah-Israeli war of July-August 2006. Iran, on its part, should not get carried away because of its current advantageous position, and make itself available for further talks. I have seen a definite commitment on the part of Iran to say engaged. Only the neoconservatives both inside and outside the Bush administration are opposing it. But they are in the minority. Q: Some say a continued negotiation will ease regional tensions; what kinds of tensions are they talking about? A: There is a lot of talk of the ""Shia momentum"" in the region. Even if that is the case (and I believe that it is), then the Sunni states has nothing to lose by keeping Iran engaged. In the absence of that engagement, there is the possibility of increased tensions. What is baffling the Sunni states is that there is a new era of Shia power in Iraq and Lebanon. That reality is unprecedented. Even to this day, Nasrallah of Hezbollah remains as the most Arab leader in the streets of Cairo and Amman. Sunni Arab leaders have no idea how to cope with that reality. I think once they get over the initial shock (and it is about time that they should get over it), they will engage Iran. Q: Do you think that the dialogue will cover broader issues such as Afghanistan, the Persian Gulf security, and the tension in the Middle East? A: I think the dialogue among the Sunni (Persian) Gulf states and Iran is a vital necessity for peace in the Persian/Arabian Gulf. For peace in Afghanistan, there has to be a dialogue between Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan and the U.S. I don't think that dialogue is in the offing anytime soon