Opinions & Articles

June 17, 2012

The dilemma of dialogue between Tehran and Washington and possible scenarios

Dr. Mahjoub Zweiri


After three decades of war of words and the talk that “all options are on the table, including a military confrontation,” the talk comes back to diplomacy, but this time with a stronger force. This diplomatic action between Tehran and Washington is not new in the path of the two countries after the establishment of the Islamic Republic in 1979. It has been tried The two countries had the option of dialogue in two crises that took on an international dimension. The first was the war on Afghanistan in 2001. The two countries acknowledged that such negotiation had taken place, but it was limited to the so-called war on terrorism and confronting al-Qaeda and its activities. As for the second time, it was related to Iraq’s security, and he met the ambassadors of the two countries in Iraq four times in Baghdad, but these meetings did not lead to any result.

What unites the negotiation rounds or the political meetings between the two countries referred to is that the focus was, in most cases, on a particular issue, which is, for the most part, an American demand. Talking to Iran about Iraq’s security came in conjunction with the noise created by the Baker-Hamilton report [1 ]  about the need for Washington to deal with Iraq’s neighbors if it wants security to stabilize there, and there was a clear reference to Iran and Syria. Washington dispatched William Burns to a meeting between the chief Iranian negotiator on the nuclear file, Saeed Jalili, with the European Union in July 2008, [2]  and that attendance did not result in any direct contact, or at least, it was not declared that this had happened.

What is striking in the course of the post-revolutionary years in the relations between the two countries is the dominance of the escalating dimension in attitudes that comes due to the issue of the preconception that each country holds to the other, an issue that led to a state of mistrust between the two countries and the widening of the gap to the point that talking about diplomacy became Something so frightening for both parties, whether for political or security institutions, that the NIC report did not affect the report  [3] Issued in November 2007 – and emphasized Iran’s halting of its nuclear activities related to the military side – changed the political mood in Washington towards Tehran. The state of fear of diplomacy can be demonstrated by recalling two factors: The first relates to the conditions that each party sets for holding those negotiations. Here, we can mention the American condition related to Iran stopping all enrichment activities before talking to it, and in return, Iran talked about the need to “change the American behavior with Iran” and return Tehran’s deposits with Washington.

These preconditions prevented any progress for a comprehensive dialogue between the two countries. The second factor is raising the ceiling of expectations regarding the election results. It seems that each party is talking about that in the absence of guarantees of obtaining those results, or at least, guarantees that each party will obtain what it wants, there is no need for dialogue. The two sides held it, or each side felt that it did not achieve what it wanted due to the hardening of the other’s position, and thus a feeling of despair over the lack of an opportunity for the success of diplomacy.

What is recorded in the previous negotiation rounds is that they were bilateral or in the presence of a third party that does not have a political presence that can play a role in dismantling the negotiation contract, and this may lead us to question the importance of the third party in negotiating between Washington and Tehran.

This paper proceeds from the premise that both parties, through the issued statements, have crossed, albeit temporarily and limited, the complex of preconception and negative perception towards the other, and that they are serious about entering into a diplomatic path to resolve differences. Based on this, the study will mention in the first section the areas of contention between the two countries, and then move in the second section to analyze the issue of the timing of the start of the dialogue, and whether it should be postponed until after the Iranian elections in June 2009 ¿ As for the third section, it will be concerned with analyzing what country can lead The mediator’s role in this diplomatic track