Iran-US negotiations: Direct or indirect?

Iran Review – The issue of negotiation with the United States is still a hot debate in Iran. However, direct negotiation has been proposed by proponents of this idea, who emphasize that mediatory efforts must be cut off in favor of direct talks with Americans.

In view of trips made to Oman by Iranian officials and a visit to the United States by Oman’s foreign minister following his visit to Tehran, there have been speculations that Omani officials are mediating between Iran and the United States. Of course, this is not the first time that this has happened. Before nuclear negotiations started between Iran and the P5+1 group of countries, Oman played an effective part in providing grounds for those talks. The question is why Iran does not enter into direct negotiations with the United States instead of doing this through a third country taking into account that some analysts believe that Russia is also active in this regard? Of course, many problems must be surmounted before negotiations start between the two countries, who have been enemies for about 40 years. However, the recent proposal of unconditional negotiations by US President Donald Trump has once against turned the issue of direct talks with Washington into a hot topic for debate. Some believe that Trump is just seeking to show off and does not want indirect talks with Iran.

In an interview with Fararu, Hermidas Bavand, an international analyst says, “When there are no diplomatic ties between two countries and there are tensions between them for various reasons, they usually ask a third country to exchange requests and then start negotiations. Oman is usually the go-between in the case of Iran and America and this has already happened. The third country will try to provide grounds for negotiations and is only an intermediary. Therefore, when this ground is provided, the two aforementioned countries enter into negotiations. An example of this triangle was formed in the case of Iraq and Saudi Arabia under former US president, Henry Kissinger, when Americans played the mediatory role.”

He added, “In the case of Iran and the United States, Oman is the country, which is trying to calm down the situation to provide grounds for dialogue. At the present time, it has reached the conclusion that the situation is very concerning and has started to act. As you know, unlike countries such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, Oman is by no means willing to see another war in the region and seeks to improve relations between Iran and the United States or, at least, reduce tensions between them. Of course, intermediaries first ask the opinions of the two involved countries. That is, if Oman is currently serving as go-between, it means that the two sides of this case are not unwilling to start negotiation or, at least, reduce tensions.”

The university professors added, “However, I agree that we must end the current process and enter into direct talks with the United States. I believe that Trump is one of those people who are very given to theatricalities and showoff. I mean, if you look at Trump’s properties, you would see that his name is inscribed on all of them. Trump building, Trump golf club and so for. Therefore, Trump prefers that if any major step is going to be taken, it must be done through a big show and this goal cannot be achieved through mediatory efforts. At the same time, he seeks through negotiations with Iran to improve his rating before the US public opinion and he also needs a show to do this and there cannot be much hope in the success of behind-the-scene efforts.”

Asked about Iran’s final decision in this regard, Bavand said, “At the present time, nobody can say with certainty what Iran’s final decision will be. However, it seems that if this mediation process went on successfully and caused the two sides’ viewpoints to get closer to each other, Iran would be possible to enter into direct negotiations. At the present time, there are certain issues, which must be clarified by Americans. For example, it is true that Trump says he is ready for talks with Iranian officials without any conditions, but his secretary of state [Mike Pompeo], for example, says there are twelve conditions. Even after Trump offered his new proposal of talks, Mike Pompeo said there are conditions.”

Wrapping up his remarks, Bavand said, “All said, I believe that we must go over this proposal with a positive attitude and goodwill. This is because heavy sanctions that are on their way and, as put by Trump, will be unprecedented in history, can face Iran with very critical conditions. In addition, we must know that as long as we have not solved the existing problems between the United States and Iran on the basis of mutual interests, the current conditions will linger and we will face new problems without being able to solve them by turning to Russia and other countries.”


We have a treaty of amity with the United States

Ali Khorram, Iran’s former representative to the United Nations, has also taken part in an interview with Fararu on this subject. He said, “The fact that the public opinion wants to see transparency in negotiations is totally logical and correct, and it happens not only to be to our benefit, but Trump’s behavior is such that he is not very willing to act through intermediaries. This [use of intermediaries] is not beneficial to us. It does not make any difference whether the intermediate country is Oman or Russia, Trump wants to enter into direct negotiations with Iran. The reason is that Trump is especially interested in showoff and seeks not only to show himself off, but also to talk with Iranian officials about the existing problems.”

He added, “On the other hand, as I said before, it would be beneficial to our national interests and national security to sit at the negotiating table and talk face to face with the United States, because in doing this, we will reach a conclusion sooner. At the same time, other parties will not be able to take advantage of the existing conditions between Iran and the United States. Unfortunately, however, they have made a taboo of this in Iran and they themselves are afraid of it and that taboo is direct negotiations with the United States of America.”

The former official added, “For forty years, they have been trying to make the public opinion believe that negotiations with America mean annihilation of all the achievements and principles of the revolution. However, this is not true at all. Have we forgot that when Imam Khomeini was alive and soon after victory of the revolution, he believed that the [former] Soviet Union is worse than America and Britain is worse than both of them? However, after a while, he himself entered into talks with the Soviet Union and sent a delegation to do negotiations after which some sort of relations was established [between the two countries].”

The international analyst noted, “Now, the same is true about America and we have been beating the war drums for no reason for forty years. However, we can pursue our own interests like the rest of countries, including Russia, France, China and so forth, and engage in negotiations. By the way, we must not forget that we have a treaty of amity with the United States, which dates back to 1955 and can be used as a solution for both countries.”

Khorram added, “The interesting point is that up to the present time, we have used this treaty to take legal action against the United States and get compensation, but have never used it to improve and expand relations. On the whole, I believe that the reason why we do not engage in direct negotiations with the United States and always seek to find a go-between is this very taboo, which has caused Iranian officials not to be candid with people. The reality is that a large part of this people is positive about negotiations and our officials must set aside any shame and give a positive response to this demand.”

He further noted, “Of course, I agree that there is a part of the Iranian nation, which does not want negotiations with the United States, but let us not forget that the number of people who agree to negotiations and want this hostility to end and be replaced with peace and friendship between the two nations is not small. After forty years, people want modern technology to enter the country in various fields instead of always importing old technologies. We cannot ignore that during these forty years [and] due to these differences and hostility, for example, even in our automotive industry, we have used obsolete products of other countries and there is now an opportunity to put an end to this situation.”

Reacting to allegations by opponents of Iran-US negotiations, who say that Trump is by no means trustworthy, Khorram said, “Nobody is trustworthy. Isn’t Russia worse than America? Haven’t Russians stabbed us in the back several times in the past? Actually, it is for this reason that we ourselves must enter negotiations and defend our interests. In reality, all countries seek their own interests and are not ready to lose them for our sake. We must do the same and enter into negotiations to ensure our national interests and go ahead as far as our interests call for.”

*Source: Fararu