The US-Iran Relationship

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Considerable excitement was evinced recently by media reports that the US and Iran had agreed to hold bilateral talks on Iran’s nuclear program. The media started calling it “the October surprise” by Obama to ostensibly appear statesman-like before the Presidential election in November. Denials by both Washington and Tehran of the media speculation, poured cold water on these conjectures. I was immediately reminded of a paper I had seen a few years back by the libertarian Ron Paul, in which he had argued persuasively for the United States to start negotiating seriously with Iran to normalize their relations. His advice appears not to have made much of a dent either with the Bush or Obama administrations. Some intermediaries in the late 1990s had tried to bring the Iranian and US leaders together, for instance, at the annual UN General Assembly gathering, but that laudable initiative also could not be pursued to a fruitful conclusion because of 9/11. The New York Review of Books sometime back published an interesting proposal by some American foreign policy experts, aimed at resolving the uranium enrichment issue between Iran and the Western countries to what it claimed might be  mutually acceptable to both parties. However these ideas, as far as I know, were not built upon and, absent any innovative initiatives, the P5+1- Tehran, talks are at a stalemate. We know from past history that diplomacy, if it is stalled, could easily degenerate into armed conflict. As far as Iran is concerned, President Obama and his Republican rival for the Presidency, Mitt Romney, both cannot appear to be overly conciliatory, especially in the last few weeks before the Presidential election. If Obama gets re-elected, he could conceivably try to resuscitate the diplomatic path. If Romney wins the White House, he would find it far more difficult to go that route if his campaign pronouncements vis-a-vis Iran are to be believed. In any case, Romney appears to be the proponent of a muscular show of American military strength, quite reminiscent of the neo-con philosophy a decade ago, which directly or indirectly led the United States to go to war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many foreign affairs experts and US public opinion in general has swung to the point of view that both wars were unnecessary and have seriously affected America’s political and economic standing in the world.

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