Speaking exclusively to Rooz, a member of Iran’s parliament, the Majlis, said that both Iran and the US want the ongoing nuclear talks to come to fruition by the deadline of November 24th so they can celebrate. Ahmad Bakhshayeshi spoke of “signals” that he thinks are indications that the talks will be productive.
He also said that he believes that Iran has wanted to have relations with the US and that US president Barack Obama’s recent letter to Iran’s supreme leader ayatollah Khamenei could be the starting point for more contacts between the two estranged countries.
The latest round of talks at the cabinet level began in Oman across the Persian Gulf over the last weekend. Mohammad Javad Jarif and John Kerry, the foreign ministers of Iran and the US, and EU’s foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton met to discuss the impasse in the talks and explore breakthrough options.
Just a few days prior to the talks US media revealed that Mr. Obama had send a secret letter to Mr. Khamenei in the last month. According to the Wall Street Journal the letter had suggested the possibility of US-Iran cooperation over the militant insurgents in Iraq and Syria known as the Islamic State. Officials in neither capitals have till now provided any details about the letter.
Rooz spoke with Majlis (Iranian Parliament) representative Ahmad Bakhshayeshi about the recent developments between the US and Iran, and the nuclear issue who said that the letter could simply be a “psychological war that some American media wanted to create on the eve of the talks. No officials in Iran or the US have come forward officially to comment on the letter.”
Bashshayeshi then put forward a number of possible scenarios for the recent developments. “Through this letter, Mr. Obama may be trying to say that IS militants are the enemies of both Iran and the US and so if an agreement is reached over the nuclear issue, it may open cooperation over the self-proclaimed Islamic State. Just as Iran and US used to have common interests in Iraq or in Afghanistan over the Taliban. The letter could be a way to exert pressure for an agreement in the nuclear talks even if Iran has to make a major concession. The second scenario is that regardless of the nuclear issue, Iran and the US could cooperate on some other issues of mutual interest. It is true that in the last 32 years since the revolution the US has applied every pressure to topple Iran and its leaders to no avail, but this period has also seen many ups and downs while no relations existed between the two governments. Mr. Obama has realized that there are no results in the US-launched air campaign against IS and that it is only Iran that can free Iraq from the militants by entering Iraq and helping the Iraqi army and organizing it. We have had cooperation with the Americans in the past over the Taliban and on some issues in Iraq. One of the problems is that while we cooperated with the Americans in Afghanistan over the Taliban but they labelled Iran and Khatami’s administration to be members of the axis of evil. This was the appreciation they showed. The third scenario is that Mr. Obama has finally realized that he cannot destroy the Islamic republic and that this is a strong regime and an anchor of stability in the Middle East, with much progress. So it is better to establish relations with it even though there is much pressure against this from Saudi Arabia and Israel on the US.”
Just as Obama was strongly criticized by some Republicans for his letter, Bakhshayeshi points to Iranian elements against normalization of relations or at the least talks with the US. “There are groups in Iran too who believe that Iran’s prestige is in remaining opposed to the US or confronting it. That its standing with Syrians, the Lebanese, etc. would fall if Iran ended its anti-US posture. They believe there should be no talks between the two. Others argue that even the prophet of Islam, Mohammad, sent emissaries to many countries and continued to do this even if some of them were ridiculed. After 35 years, each side in this conflict has realized that it cannot destroy the other and so must have relations with each other to maintain stability in the Persian Gulf region. The US has realized that Iran has a strong logistic support militarily. Americans watch Iran and see that Iran has deep influence in Lebanon, Syria, Hamas, and Iraq. The US could not remove Maleki while Iran managed the goal. Iran is now more influential in Yemen. This is something that bothers Saudi Arabia. And when that happens, it means the US too is bothered.”
Regarding Mr. Obama’s recent letter to Mr. Khamenei, Bakhshayeshi said, “Iran has always wanted relations with the US provided the latter ends its extreme demands. It was never determined that Iran and the US would fight forever. Iran wants its relations in the international community to be recognized and its wants to play a role. It does not want to pay a bribe for this. Ayatollah Khomeini too had said that if the relations between Iran and the US were that of equal partners and that if the US ended its extreme demands, things can change. One of these demands is over the nuclear issue. What is it to the US whether Iran wants to enrich or not? Why must Iran be put under sanctions? If the US ends these extreme demands then Iran would want to establish relations. The US has now realized it cannot do anything about Iran. It instigated Saddam to attack Iran in the 8-year war, or the green light that it sent in Kurdistan and Turkmensahra regions or when it hit our plane. None of these have produced results for it. It has concluded that it must have relations with Iran. But this must be on equal terms.”
He continued, “During Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s presidency, Ahmadinejad sent many letters to Obama, but the latter did not understand them diplomatically. Perhaps through his letters, Mr. Obama is indicating the futility of previous policies. If this is the case, then it is good. I think the two should cooperate over IS. If there has been a letter, then I think they should cooperate over IS. They had cooperated in the past and nothing bad happened. In fact this can be a starting point for more contacts.”
Bakhshayeshi expressed optimism over the nuclear talks and said they would result in an agreement. Both countries desire to reach an agreement and celebrate. “I see three signs that the talks with conclude in an agreement: One that Mr. Rouhani keenly wants the talks to succeed so that more economic contacts also take place and more business. I think if that takes place, the sanctions regime will fall apart and Iran will become a place for international investors to come. Mr. Obama too keenly wants to leave a positive legacy through this issue so he can say we stopped Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. So both desire a settlement of the issue. The second sign is that Mr. Ryabkov (the Russian representative at the nuclear talks) said that 98 percent agreement has been reached on the nuclear issues. The two percent that remained are the sanctions and enrichment details. The third sign are the words of Mr. Rafsanjani who had sent a message to Obama and the Americans that if they could not reach an agreement with this government (in Iran) which stemmed from the cultural elite, whom with could they accomplish this with.”
He concluded by saying that both sides want to celebrate but if that does not happen, the talks will continue beyond November 24.
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