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Iran Seeks Direct Talks with US on Iraq in Quest for More Time

Yesterday’s call for meetings between Iran and the United States over Iraq raised eyebrows, coming from Iran’s staunch ally in Iraq and leader of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), Abdul Aziz Al Hakim. Hakim said, “We want the wise Iranian leadership to open a clear dialogue with America regarding Iraq and reach an understanding on disputed issues in Iraq, a dialogue for the benefit of the Iraqi people.” Iran and the United States have not had formal talks since the 1979 revolution and takeover of the American Embassy in Tehran.

This should be considered with Iran’s other ‘Man in Iraq’, Muqtada al-Sadr. al-Sadr recently pledged that he and his Mahdi Army are ‘at the service’ of Iran, which is but a piece of the encroaching regional hegemony of the world’s foremost state sponsor of terrorism.

In Act Two of the Iranian diplomatic ballet, today Iran called for the direct dialogue with the US in what could be considered the most public ‘closed door’ parliamentary meeting ever as news of the move splashes the screens and pages of news organizations throughout the world today. Ali Larijani, the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, told the ‘closed door’ meeting of Iran’s Mejlis (parliament), “To resolve Iraqi issues and help establishment of an independent and free government in Iraq, we agree to (talks with the United States).”

But to understand today’s moves, it must be acknowledged that Larijani is agreeing to a call made only by Tehran’s own man in Iraq, SCIRI leader Abdul Aziz Al Hakim. The US has made no such offer or suggestion.

In fact, Iran has desired for some time to engage the US in direct talks on its clandestine nuclear program, which Washington has rejected, preferring to follow IAEA and UN Security Council joint procedures. Larijani, who functions as Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, is attempting to lure the United States into direct talks on the nuclear crisis by first floating the idea of talks on Iraq through al-Hakim. Iran believes they will be able to parlay that into talks on their nuclear program if the US, who along with Britain accuses Iran of sending men and munitions into Iraq to do battle with the Coalition forces, can be brought to the table on Iraq.

It is at least curious, coming from an Iran who denies involvement in Iraq. But, again, the talks on Iraq are not the aim. Rather, a whole new round of talks on the nuclear issue – and specifically a whole new timetable – is the true Iranian ambition.

As the overtures are made by al-Hakim and Iran, President Bush is set to release a revised National Security Strategy report recently completed, which reaffirms the 2002 National Security Strategy (pdf) that marked what is known as ‘The Bush Doctrine’ of a forward-leaning and aggressive prosecution of the War on Terror, including the policy of pre-emptive strikes. The revised National Security Strategy report puts Iran as the top priority, declaring “We may face no greater challenge from a single country than from Iran.”

The new document speaks directly in raffirming pre-emption as a part of the National Security Strategy.

“If necessary, however, under long-standing principles of self-defense, we do not rule out the use of force before attacks occur even if uncertainty remains as to the time and place of the enemy’s attack. … When the consequences of an attack with weapons of mass destruction are potentially so devastating, we cannot afford to stand idly by as grave dangers materialize. … The place of pre-emption in our national security strategy remains the same.”

While in Australia, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice spoke optimistically of the prospects of the UN Security Council taking firm action on Iran. Whether she truly harbors the confidence she speaks publicly of is questionable at best. But, what is important to garner from her words is much less her degree of faith in the UN Security Council’s eventual results but rather the American intent to let the UN/IAEA process run it’s course. Direct talks with Iran while that process is ongoing are very, very unlikely.

In describing Iran, Secretary of State Rice called Iran the “central banker of terrorism”, and this is at the core of the conflict with Iran, not simply their pursuit of nuclear weapons. Iran’s tentacles of terrorism reach from Hezbollah in southern Lebanon, to Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades in the Palestinian Territories and, lest it be forgotten, their continued harboring of al-Qaeda leadership within their own borders.

In 2001, President Bush said to the nations of the world, “You are either with us, or you are with the terrorists,” as he challenged the nations of the world with much clarity and no nuance to decide their position. There is no other nation whose decision is clearer than Iran.

It is not the weapons, nuclear or otherwise. It is the regime that deliberately seeks to usher the return of the 12th Imam with their messianic quest to pave the way by creating turmoil and horror throughout the region and the world. Before the West fears the prospect of a nuclear Iran, it should first acknowledge and fear their aims, pursued with deep religious conviction and without fear of death. The West is not dealing with the rational thought we ourselves employ.