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Has Iranian-US Dialogue Ended? | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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US President Barack Obama has given the Iranians until the end of the year, i.e. six months, to determine how serious they are in discussing the nuclear file. President Obama stressed that “we’re not going to have talks forever” with Iran, and hinted at [the prospect of] tougher sanctions against Tehran.

This corresponds with what I wrote in a previous article that was published April 19 entitled ‘Stopping the Settlements for Stopping Iran,’ in which I quoted an American source that told me that ‘Washington wants around six months to give dialogue with Iran enough of a chance.’

In actual fact, this is what is happening today. The question now is: has Iranian-US dialogue ended before it has even begun, especially as Obama’s tone towards Iran has changed as he now speaks of a deadline and tougher sanctions?

To know more about this, we must look at a number of factors. The Iranian elections are just around the corner; they will be held on June 12. If there is a new president, there will be two or three months of an internal power struggle ahead of him but if Ahmadinejad wins again then nothing will change. Some might say here that the person who determines Iran’s policies towards America is the spiritual guide, not the president and in this case Khamenei’s recent assault on America clearly demonstrates that he is against dialogue.

It is true that there are indicators that Iran has softened its stance towards Washington such as the release of [Roxana Saberi,] the American journalist. Moreover, there is action on Iran’s part to strengthen its negotiation power, for example its failed attempt to bring the Afghan and Pakistani leaders together. But the fundamental issue continues to be the Iranian nuclear file and what concessions Iran can offer in return for what it could obtain from America, especially as Washington has stressed on numerous occasions that it will not negotiate [with Iran] at the expense of the region.

Furthermore, we mustn’t ignore another important factor in order to know the fate of US-Iranian dialogue before it even begins and that is the Israeli factor. Tel Aviv sees the Iranian nuclear project as a threat to its existence and treats it as a red line. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that Obama, for the first time, set a deadline for the Iranians after his meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. It appears to be the case that we really are facing the “you stop the settlements and we’ll stop Iran” equation. So whilst Washington is occupied with the peace process, Israel is occupied with Iran.

Most importantly, Obama openly stated that he believes that the success of the peace process will reduce the threat of the Iranian nuclear project. This is very significant and the question here is: has Tehran found itself between a rock and a hard place?

Iran planned to exploit the Palestinian Cause in negotiations with America and to achieve legitimacy in our region. As a result, the Iranians became trapped; if they abandon the Palestinian Cause, they will be exposed to the Arabs (as was the case with the American journalist) but if they continue with their extremist stances then they will be exposed to the threat of confronting the West.

Therefore, the game now has become clear for everyone to see so it would be safe to say that dialogue, if it comes about, will be distorted. The strangest thing that I’ve heard is a phrase that the Americans use about Iran that someone told me: “If you want to confuse the Iranians just tell them the truth!”

It seems that the truth is what will ruin any chances of American-Iranian dialogue.