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Iran nuclear issue used by US as pawn in bigger game: American professor

Scott Lucas is Professor of American Studies at the University of Birmingham, where he has worked since 1989. A specialist in US and British foreign policy, he has written and edited seven books, more than 30 major articles, and a radio documentary and co-directed the 2007 film Laban!.

Formerly a journalist in the United States, Scott has written for newspapers including The Guardian and The Independent and was an essayist for The New Statesman.

Professor Lucas is also one of the founders of Enduring America. You can read some of his recent articles here.

London, Feb 25, IRNA - American professor Scott Lucas says he is "cautiously optimistic" about moves towards an improvement in US-Iran relations following President Barack Obama coming to office.

The approach by the previous Bush Administration was "not helpful" not just on the nuclear issue but also on Iran's position in the region especially following the Iraq and Afghan wars, said the Professor of American Studies at the University of Birmingham in central England.

"I think the Bush Administration often used the nuclear issue as a pawn in a wider chess match. They used it to keep pressure on Iran, while trying to take advantage in Iraq by restricting Iran," he said.

In an interview with IRNA, Lucas suggested that Iran's nuclear program needed to be discussed through dialogue and with international bodies, including the International Atomic Energy Agency, and not by the US on its own or by pulling the Europeans behind.

But with Obama taking over at the White House, he said that he was "cautiously optimistic there is engagement," citing signals that the new president might be interested in finding a diplomatic way forward not just on Iran's nuclear program but also on wider issues.

The professor, who is a specialist in US and British foreign policy, has been in the UK for the last 20 years. He has written and edited seven books as well as more than 30 major articles and appears regularly on British, American, and international radio and television.

He believed that there may have been some very quiet discussions behind the scene privately already taking place between US and Iranian intermediaries, but said he did not expected any major publicity until after Iran's election in June.

"There are also a complex set of issues," Lucas said, citing as one example the actual need for Iran's cooperation in a new policy on Afghanistan that has been signaled by Obama's special envoy Richard Holbrooke.

He suggested that the US would have to make some adjustment to its stance on the nuclear issue, which has become symbolic on both sides and said he expected a change to more of a type of cooperation.

"The question is whether the nuclear issue can be pushed to one side" in a wider dialogue that would include not just Afghanistan but the wider Middle East, the American professor said.

Steps to take included easing sanctions on Iran and helping the country to develop economically. There was also the wider approach on Palestine amid indications that the US could be moving to accepting that Hams is part of the situation.

Lucas believed it was better for Obama not to appoint a high-profile envoy to Iran as he did with Holbrooke for Afghanistan and former senator George Mitchell to the Middle East.

The appointment of Dennis Ross was a "wider and very vague title" in a coordinator role as special adviser for the Persian Gulf and Southwest Asia to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, he said.

"It would have been very bad start to make Ross - the envoy for Iran -because I think he is seen in Tehran as very antagonistic - because of his relationship with certain groups like the Washington Institute," the professor said.

"I think it is actually another sign from the administration is serious about dialogue with Iran," he said, suggesting that diplomatic channels would be more productive rather than through an envoy.

... Payvand News - 02/25/09 ... --

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