|TIME TO TALK?
The debate to renew dialogue with Iran.
January 26, 1998
in this forum:
Does engaging Iran send the wrong message to other nations who condone terrorism? Considering Iran's hostility toward Israel and its opposition to the peace process, what could one expect from U.S.-Iran dialogue in relation to Iran and Israel? Isn't it possible that constructive dialogue and the readmission of Iran into the international community could do more to influence and Iran's behavior than sanctions ever achieved? Is Iran ready to have a dialogue with the United States? Didn't previous U.S policies toward Iran create the hostility that divides the two nations today?
December 15, 1997
President Khatami calls for a dialogue with the West.
May 26, 1997
Mohammad Khatami is elected president of Iran .
January 30, 1997
The State Department's annual report on human rights violations .
March 13, 1996
A summit on terrorism is held in Egypt .
Browse the NewsHour's coverage of the Middle East.
Iranian Embassy in Canada
News, views and information on Iran from NetIran.
Department of State
Jonas Marson of Berkley, CA, asks:
In addition to securing energy resources, the security of the state of Israel seems to be one of the U.S.' primary concerns in the region. Considering Iran's implacable hostility toward Israel and its virulent opposition to the peace process, what could one expect from U.S.-Iran dialogue in relation to Iran and Israel?
Congressman Sam Gejdenson, (D-Connecticut), answers:
The security of Israel and the peace process are fundamental to U.S. policy in the Middle East. Iran continues to be a determined opponent of the peace process. Iran funds Hezbollah, which provides armed opposition to a lasting peace in the Middle East and also sponsors terrorist organizations around the world including Islamic Jihad, who claim credit for attacks on Israeli civilians. Tehran's words served as the inspiration for the bombing of the World Trade Center as well as the failed attempt to destroy the Lincoln Tunnel.
The recent Organization of Islamic Conference hosted and shaped by Iran was strongly critical of Israel and did not support the peace process. President Khatami has been quoted recently as saying that the peace process was bound to fail. Nonetheless, he also said that Iran should not impose its solutions on the peace process. These mixed messages emerging from Iran may represent the beginnings of change, but once again actions must follow words. Movement on the peace process is a litmus test Iran must pass and must be included in any dialogue between Washington and Tehran.
Dr. Gary Sick, former National Security Council staff member and principal White House aide for Iran during the Iranian Revolution and the hostage crisis, answers:
Iran has taken the position that the Israeli-Palestinian peace process is unfair to the Palestinians and that it will not succeed. Regrettable as it may be, that view has come to be heard more and more frequently throughout the Middle East, even by America's closest allies there, especially since Prime Minister Netanyahu was elected and the peace process has virtually ground to a halt. The Iranian position is unlikely to change unless there are major new developments in the peace process. However, Iran has stated officially that it will take no actions to try to stop the peace talks and that it will accept any outcome that is acceptable to the Palestinians and to Israel's neighbors. One objective of any dialogue with Iran would be to challenge Iran to live up to that promise and to work out concrete guarantees that no Iranian money or support is funnelled to organizations such as Hamas that conduct suicide bombings and other illegal activities designed to disrupt the peace process.
The possibility of meaningful negotiations on this issue should not be dismissed out of hand. In July 1996, shortly after Mr. Netanyahu was elected in Israel, there were secret negotiations between Israel and the Hezbollah in Lebanon via the German government that resulted in a swap of prisoners. When this agreement was announced, Mr. Netanyahu publicly thanked Iran for its constructive role in the talks. Although the importance of a single episode such as this should not be exaggerated, it demonstrates that productive discussion of specific grievances is not an impossibility.
The real question is whether the present policy of no contact is likely to be more effective in changing Iran's views on this very contentious subject. After eighteen years of U.S. efforts to isolate Iran and punish it with increasing sanctions, it is hard to find a single example of any success in changing Iran's policies toward Israel and the peace process.