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Iran: Politicians React To Second Round Of Iraq Talks With U.S.

  • Vahid Sepehri --> Iranian Ambassador to Iraq Hassan Kazemi-Qomi (left) and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker (file photo) (AFP) July 31, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- Iranian politicians have firmly rejected U.S. accusations of Tehran's meddling in Iraq after an apparently less cordial second round of talks on Iraqi security held in Baghdad between the ambassadors of Iran and the United States on July 24.

Despite the indignant remarks, however, Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman was cautious on July 30 and did not rule out further talks. A committee was also formed at the talks to consider security issues in Iraq and to maintain contact between Iran, the United States, and Iraq.

There is also a more discreet satisfaction in the comments at the formation of the specialist committee, which can maintain private contacts -- in the manner of 19th-century diplomacy, which Iran seems to prefer.

Pinning The Blame

Alaeddin Borujerdi, the head of the Iranian parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, said on July 28 that U.S. accusations of Iranian involvement in the Iraqi insurgency are intended to justify Washington's "deplorable record of mistakes and the appalling situation" in Iraq.

He said purported U.S. evidence or documents of Iranian involvement may be "entirely forged," something he said is easy for a government or army to do. Borujerdi also urged U.S. officials to swiftly release five Iranians detained in Irbil in northern Iraq last January to show "real" interest in bringing security to Iraq.

If the U.S.-Iranian talks held thus far are seen in Tehran to have made progress, he added, subsequent "favorable" conditions might allow for further talks at a higher level.

Another legislator, Tehran representative Hussein Mozaffar, said on July 28 that accusations against Iran are hardly the "key" to the "rusty door" of Iran-U.S. contacts. He blamed "American mistakes in Iraq" for "unrest in the Middle East."

Another Tehran representative, Ali Abbaspur-Tehrani, said Iran should abandon any future talks if they merely mean it has to defend itself against American accusations. "Responding to accusations is definitely not on the agenda, even if there are positive aspects to the negotiating process," he told ISNA.

'Center Of Corruption'

One of Iran's most prominent conservative clerics, Guardians Council Secretary Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, said at Tehran's official Friday Prayers on July 27 that the Americans were informed of their mistakes at the July 24 round of talks. His comments echoed the assertions of conservative politicians after the first round of talks in May, which were depicted as Iran's envoy lecturing U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker for U.S. "mistakes" in Iraq.

Jannati said that in spite of its "forceful" positions, the United States "came to realize" its mistakes, the daily "Kayhan" reported on July 29. He blamed ongoing violence in Iraq on the U.S. presence and urged it to leave. "You have made [Iraq] into the center of corruption. Iraq has no gates, and the country has become a collection of all the region's bandits."

Without U.S. forces, he said, "the Iraqi government backed by the people has the power to suppress the terrorists."

On a more impartial note, Tehran-based academic Mehdi Mottaharnia told ISNA on July 29 that talks in themselves are positive but ultimately they cannot be assessed only by the results they did or did not bring. He added that the resolution of problems that the talks are seeking to address depend to some extent on the resolution of the "ideological confrontation" between Iran and the United States.

Mottaharnia said it is natural at this stage of talks -- considering that there has been almost 30 years of hostility between Washington and Tehran -- for both sides to meet amid mutual recriminations.

Praise For Committee

But the reality, he added, is that necessity has brought them to the negotiating table. He suggested a move toward constructive results that he defined as serving "the interests of nations, not of states."

Conservative politician Hamid Reza Taraqqi told ISNA on July 29 that the formation of a three-party committee after the talks is a particular achievement and notable given the "serious friction" that was reported between negotiators. He said it shows "the Americans have at least agreed" that Iraqi security issues have to be considered in a "specialist" context.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Husseini said at a Tehran press conference on July 30 that the parties need to examine how this committee will work.

He said Iran "clearly" stated its proposals and positions during the talks and informed the United States that it needs to change its "approach" if security is to improve in Iraq. He said the talks held so far are "initial steps" and that "startling progress" could not be expected.

Husseini said talks at a higher diplomatic level are not being discussed, and "there is no evident need for raising the level of these negotiations," ISNA reported on July 30. At the same time he stressed that "Iraq's stability is our stability and security," and Iran had engaged "seriously" in these talks.

The comments by the politicians repeat Iranian positions: that the United States must leave Iraq and leave the Nuri al-Maliki government to take charge of security since it is the lawfully constituted, democratic government, and that Iran is doing all it can to help but is not meddling in the insurgency.

Mutual Distrust

There is also a more discreet satisfaction in the comments at the formation of the specialist committee, which can maintain private contacts -- in the manner of 19th-century diplomacy, which Iran seems to prefer -- and plan the agenda for another round of talks.

However, the statement by an unofficial observer such as Mottaharnia are, perhaps, more revealing of key issues: the necessity and benefits for both sides to cooperate on Iraq, and the ideological and systemic differences that fuel a mutual distrust.

This distrust was most recently seen in reported plans for a large-scale arms sale by the United States to Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf states. These are mainly Sunni Islamic monarchies with free-market economies. They have formal -- but hardly cordial -- relations with Iran, which is inclined toward radical groups and causes.

Husseini criticized the future sale as part of the U.S. policy of creating "fear and concern" among Mideast countries and to "create a chance" to sell its arms, Reuters reported on July 30.

Iranian Vice President Ahmad Musavi told a Tehran seminar the previous day that the United States is selling arms on the back of the "illusory" threat that Iran poses in the region, ISNA reported. He said that "everyone knows" that Iran is "no threat to any country." He urged Middle East states to consider what he called the real regional threat: the "cancerous tumor of Israel."

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