Veteran journalist cautiously optimistic about Iran-US relations

London, Oct 3, IRNA – A wall of mistrust still separates Americans and Iranians and it will take more than recent statements by both governments to break down that wall, according to former CBS News editor and journalist Tom Fenton.

But the veteran journalist said that he is cautiously optimistic about the future of Iran-US relations.
“For the first time in years, I am cautiously optimistic about the future of Iran-US relations”, he told IRNA in an interview.
“President Obamas 15-minute telephone conversation with President Rouhani and the speeches of both Presidents to the United Nations General Assembly were a public confirmation of their desire to end 34 years of mutual hostility between the two governments”, he added.

“I am also optimistic because the political and economic conditions now seem right for an agreement” said Fenton, who served as a bureau chief in London, Paris, Rome, Moscow and Tel Aviv in a 34-year career with CBS before retiring in 2004.

He believes that in the past, efforts to improve relations between Iran and US failed because one side or the other felt no need for a reconciliation.
“But now the American public as well as their government have no desire for more military interventions in the Middle East. And the Iranians are suffering from the crippling economic sanctions imposed by the UN, the US and its Western allies. Both the US and Iranian leaders seem to believe it is time to talk,” the award-winning journalist said.

“However, a wall of mistrust still separates the two governments. It will take more than American statements that it is not seeking regime change in Iran and Iranian statements or a Fatwa that it is not seeking nuclear weapons, to break down that wall. It will take demonstrable facts,” he told IRNA.

“As President Reagan once said when he was negotiating a nuclear arms agreement with the Soviet Union, both sides need to ‘trust and verify’”.
Referring to nuclear issue and West’s accusations against Iran’s peaceful program, Fenton said; “many Western experts suspect that Iran is not seeking nuclear weapons, which might invite an attack from America or Israel, but only seeking to acquire the ability to produce them, which would give it a bargaining chip that it could trade for respect and recognition.”
When asked about Israel’s angry reaction to recent developments, the journalist said; “the Israeli government may believe that the Iranian nuclear program is an existential threat, but does not have the military power to get rid of it by themselves.”

He also believed that Israel would continue to use its influence in US politics to try to shape American Middle East policy, but said “(Israel) may have to settle for a broad settlement between the US and Iran that would remove the potential threat of an Iranian bomb.”
“For all these reasons, I remain optimistic about the prospects that Iran and the US will learn to work together in the interests of both countries. I remain cautious however, because there are a number of obstacles to overcome.”

He said “one of the most important (obstacle) is the need to prepare public opinion in both countries for a reconciliation. The mass media of the US and Iran could play an important role by presenting a more balanced and objective picture after decades of vilifying the other country.”

“The overthrow of the Mossadegh government and the seizure of the American embassy will never be forgotten, but hopefully the day will come when the presidents of the US and Iran can share not just a private phone call, but a public handshake of peace,” he concluded.



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