‘Iran’s shift toward West is serious’

‘Iran’s shift toward West is serious’...
morungexpress.com 29/09/2013 News

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A supporter of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, holds a local newspaper with a headline that reads, "historic call from a return flight," upon his arrival from the U.S. near the Mehrabad airport in Tehran, Iran on September 28, Iranians from across the political spectrum hailed Saturday the historic phone conversation between President Barack Obama and Rouhani, reflecting wide support for an initiative that has the backing of both reformists and the country's conservative clerical leadership. (AP Photo)

UNITED NATIONS, September 29 (AP): Iraq’s foreign minister said Saturday that the new Iranian government led by President Hassan Rouhani offers “the best chance after 34 years of animosity” to improve relations with the United States and should be taken seriously.

Hoshyar Zebari also told The Associated Press in an interview that he is working behind the scenes to try to unite disparate Syrian opposition groups ahead of a November peace conference and to promote a thaw in Tehran’s relations with the United States.

Zebari said U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon asked Iraq at their meeting Saturday to press the opposition to come with one delegation and one position. The U.N. chief also told him he heard no opposition to Iran, an ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad, participating in the upcoming Geneva peace conference. “Before he would hear outright rejection,” Zebari said. “This time, everybody was quiet. Nobody objected.”

Iraq is in a unique position in the Middle East. Its Shiite-dominated government has comfortable ties to Shiite Iran — an important ally of Bashar Assad’s Syrian regime. And according to Zebari, Iraq also has good relations with both sides in the Syrian conflict. It also has strong ties to Washington following the 10-year, American-led war that ousted dictator Saddam Hussein.

Zebari said Iraq had numerous discussions with the Americans and the Iranians after Rouhani’s June election. “Our role I would not claim to be decisive or instrumental, but it was helpful,” he said. When Rouhani won by a landslide in the first round, he said Iraq understood before many other people “that this is real, this is genuine, because if the regime wanted to scuttle it, they could have forced a second round election. They didn’t.”

Iran’s hard-line Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who calls the shots on all important matters of state, appears to be giving his critical backing to Rouhani’s rapprochement with the West. On Friday, President Barack Obama and Rouhani spoke on the phone for 15 minutes, the highest level contacts between the two countries since Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution.

It capped Rouhani’s debut on the world stage this week at the U.N. General Assembly, where he repeatedly advocated for moderation and an easing of tensions.
Iraq’s Prime Minister said in a statement Saturday that he welcomed the latest development between Tehran and Washington as a “big breakthrough to the deadlock,” expressing his country’s readiness to play any role to succeed the dialogue between the two countries. We are optimistic about what happened recently at the United Nations,” Nouri al-Maliki said.

Ahead of the General Assembly, Zebari said he told the Americans and Europeans: “Take this leadership more seriously. Don’t think that they are the same, that they are just playing games. ... We see they are serious.”

Zebari said another important indication of Rouhani’s seriousness was that he appointed Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif as lead nuclear negotiator, taking that key role out of the hands of security agencies with the apparent blessing of ruling clerics. Iran’s eagerness to resume stalled negotiations over its disputed nuclear program is another sign of a real shift, Zebari said.

He said he told the Americans and Europeans that “before you were after them to have these talks ... just to give the impression you are doing something. Now they are eager also, and primarily because of the sanctions, because of the isolation.”

Tehran insists its nuclear activities are purely peaceful but the U.S. and its allies believe it is aimed at producing nuclear weapons. The U.N., the U.S. and Europe have imposed multiple rounds of sanctions on Iran for its refusal to curb suspect nuclear activities and Iran’s economy has been devastated by the measures.

If the U.S.-Iran relationship develops, Zebari said there should be direct talks. “I think this could be more helpful, and I think on the American side they embrace that idea, but I think it’s too early,” he said. Zebari said Iraq has tried to help end the 2 1/2-year Syrian conflict that has killed more than 100,000 people. But the growing power of jihadists fighting among Syrian rebel groups is complicating any solution.

The highly fragmented opposition is increasingly dominated by jihadists and al-Qaida-linked militants, many of them foreign fighters. But it has never been able to form a coherent united front against Assad.

“They have grown in power and in control,” he said of the jihadists fighting among the Syrian rebels. Iraqi officials have said that cooperation between jihadist groups on both sides of the country’s border with Syria is also escalating violence within Iraq. “Many people claim they are providing arms, they are good guys and bad guys, but believe me the picture from where we sit in Iraq is very blurred,” Zebari said.


After historic call, hard work begins

Paris, September 29 (AFP): With a simple telephone call, Barack Obama and Hasan Rouhani achieved an initial thaw in relations but the two presidents face an uphill task in convincing their entourages to follow suit, analysts say. The historic 15-minute call between the US president and his Iranian counterpart on Friday marked the first contact between leaders of the two nations in over three decades -- since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

It heralded a “new tone” in relations, said Shashank Joshi, research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute think tank in London. Stateside, the optimistic New York Times wrote: “It?s hard not to be swept up in the euphoria, especially when an adversary begins to seem not only reasonable but personable.”

But now begins the hard task for Obama and Rouhani of persuading hostile diplomats and advisers that normalising relations is desirable. Tehran’s nuclear programme and the opposition of Israel, the US ally and Iran foe, are likely to make full rapprochement difficult.

“Hardliners on both sides are the big elephant in the room,” said Arshin Adib-Moghaddam, chair of the Centre for Iranian Studies at London’s School of Oriental and African Studies. “Rouhani has to tread a fine line,” he warned. “The issue of relations with the United States is emotive, charged with historical memories that are personal and immediate. There will be situations when he has to backtrack because of domestic constraints.”

Obama and Rouhani risk the wrath of their respective entourages and allies as they move to restore diplomatic relations which broke down after the hostage-taking at the US embassy following the 1979 revolution. “For Obama this will open him up to criticism from Israel and hardliners in Washington. He is taking a brave step in doing this,” Joshi said. “Rouhani is also taking a brave step as we’ve seen from the demonstrations upon his return. He will have angered many, many hardliners,” he added.

As Rouhani arrived back in Tehran from the UN General Assembly in New York, a protester threw a shoe at his motorcade while others in a crowd of several dozen chanted “Death of America”. But another larger group of supporters turned out to thank Iran’s new president -- a moderate who replaced the firebrand Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in June -- for taking the important step. The Iranian press has also lauded the renewed contact. nagaland, naga news, dimapur, kohima, nagaland news, india, northeast, Mokokchung, Nagalim, guwahati, assam, manipur...

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