In These New Times

A new paradigm for a post-imperial world

Kerry makes overture to Iran

Posted by seumasach on February 10, 2013


Indian Punchline

10th February, 2013

The United States has neatly sidestepped the remarks by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei which apparently shut the door on direct talks between the two ancient adversaries. In sum, the Barack Obama administration ran a fine comb through Khamenei’s remarks and estimated that it is not at all as if the door for US-Iran talks has been slammed shut and the key thrown away.

Rather, Khamenei has put the ABC of a genuine normalization process on the table. Iran expects the US’s goodwill gestures that would affirm its commitment and sincerity and it won’t negotiate under threat; it expects respect and equal treatment.
Iran has a wealth of experience in dealing with America. The last major American somersault came when it sought help from Iran in the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and Iran began delivering al-Qaeda operatives at the American doorstep in Bagram airbase. What did Iran get in return?
The neocon administration in Washington promptly named Iran as one of the ‘axis of evil’. Then followed Senator John McCain’s famous takeoff on the Beach Boys song. Simply put, the US has been stupidly ideological and shamelessly duplicitous in its Iran’s policies. And all this while the US’s regional influence in the Middle East is steadily declining and its image is in the mud in the Arab Street.
Khamenei is saying: ‘Wake up, man!’ Thus, it is rather interesting that no one worth his name in the Washington establishment thought of sparring with Khamenei. This is welcome change.
But the US ‘response’ has been prompt. Secretary of State John Kerry has tried to put things back on track by saying the US is “ready to respond” if the forthcoming talks on the nuclear issue within the P5+1 format gets into “real substance.”

Notably, Tehran too has eschewed rhetoric. Now, FM Ali Akbar Salehi travels to Moscow. A wonderful opportunity is coming the Kremlin’s way to use its good offices to nudge the P5+1 talks in a positive direction. Will it use the Iran talks to leverage the US-Russia reset? In a similar situation involving North Korea, that is exactly what Beijing and Washington are doing. But that is another story and let us go back to Kerry.
He simply stuck to the negotiating track as the only track — no veiled threat of ‘all-options-are-on-the-table’, etc. Interestingly, he spoke from a written statement and he brought in Obama’s imprimatur behind the thinking to “let diplomacy be the winner in this confrontation.”
Kerry’s suggestion is: “They [Iranians] have to prove to the world that it [nuclear program] is peaceful and we are prepared to sit reasonably and negotiate how they can do it.”
In retrospect, did the US goof up by scaling up sanctions on Wednesday just when things were nearing a delicate point? Whose decision was it any way to throw a monkey wrench at the diplomatic wheel? Couldn’t have been Kerry’s. He took charge only on Tuesday.

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