Monday, September 15, 2014

Iran’s Khamenei is no Mao

It takes two to tango. Iran has rejected for now any partnership with the U.S. to fight (what we now call) Islamic State. In an article that details U.S. backtracking in the face of a major loss of face (Iran doesn’t want us!), Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has issued a very public and seemingly definitive rejection of private U.S. overtures to the militant Shiite state.

According to an LA Times report, Khamenei said that when the U.S. ambassador in Baghdad requested a meeting with his Iranian counterpart to discuss “coordination” between the two nations to confront the Islamic State threat,
I opposed [the U.S. request] and told them we will not cooperate with the Americans on the issue because their intent and hands are not clean. How is it possible for us to cooperate with the Americans under such circumstances?
Khamenei added that Iran also rebuffed a request from Secretary of State John Kerry for “cooperation” conveyed “personally” from Kerry to the Iranian foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif. The Supreme Leader proclaimed that:
Iran has voiced its opposition to being a party to that coalition from the very beginning. The Americans’ coalition is nonsense.
Comment: The article verifies speculation the U.S. tried more than once to reach Iran. The atmosphere today, please understand, is different from that which Henry Kissinger exploited with his 1971 opening to China. In Kissinger’s time, China already had the bomb, both the U.S. and China could see that the U.S.S.R. was benefiting from having relations with both the U.S. and China at our mutual expense, and Russians had killed Chinese in 1969 clashes along the Soviet-Chinese border. Both sides looked for improved relations with each other at Moscow’s expense.

Iran feels no similar pressure to advance relations with Israel’s major supporter and the main force blocking Iran’s possession of the bomb. Still, Khamenei’s use of the phrase, “under such circumstances” seems to tell the U.S. that if it gives Iran a path to the bomb, things could change. Iranians know that improved relations with the U.S. would in and of itself undermine U.S.-Israeli ties, as suggested in our previous post.

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