Tehran/Brussels, 2 June 2009: Genuinely normal Iran-U.S. relations may be out of reach for now, but the two could achieve a more realistic objective: beginning a long-term dialogue that minimises risks of confrontation while working on areas of mutual interest.
U.S.-Iranian Engagement: The View from Tehran,* the latest briefing from the International Crisis Group, examines prospects for rapprochement based on interviews with Iranian officials and analysts. The current guarded optimism for improved ties is partially warranted - this is the most promising moment in a generation. But expectations of the two sides appear mismatched, and the gap between their positions remains large.
"Hearing Tehran's arguments, we already find the seeds of potential misunderstandings", says Frederic Tellier, Crisis Group's Senior Iran Analyst. "But knowing them also means negotiators can try to neutralise them before they grow".
Several core conclusions emerge:
"Obstacles to improved relations are considerable. Iran's endgame vision, whether concerning its nuclear program or ties to militant Arab groups, is at loggerheads with Washington's, and there is not any certainty that its domestic system will favour a genuine shift in the relationship", says Robert Malley, Crisis Group's Middle East and North Africa Program Director. "But these difficulties make it the more important that U.S. efforts begin wisely and that, as much as possible, the administration take into account Iran's outlook and perceptions, even if it does not accept them".
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