Thursday, January 03, 2008

Iran leader suggests U.S. ties possible in future

By Cernig

Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has said that he is not opposed to better relations with the U.S. but that now is not the right time for diplomatic detente.
Iran's supreme leader suggested on Thursday that ties might one day be possible with the United States, the Islamic state's arch foe for almost three decades, although he said it would harm Iran to restore relations now.

"Not having relations with America is one of our main policies but we have never said this relationship should be cut forever," Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in the central province of Yazd, state television reported.

"Certainly, the day when having relations with America is useful for the nation I will be the first one to approve this relationship."

Iranian leaders have often said they would not establish ties with the United States unless Washington, which is leading efforts to isolate Tehran over its nuclear work, changes its behavior towards the Islamic Republic.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said last month Washington was open to better relations with Iran if it halted its nuclear work, something Tehran has repeatedly refused to do.

The West suspects Iran wants to master nuclear technology so it can build atomic bombs. Iran, the world's fourth-largest crude producer, says its program is aimed at generating electricity to enable it to sell more oil and gas.
The AP adds that one of Khamenei's big worries is the Bush administration's covert backing for regime change groups inside Iran so that it can use them as proxy spies.
Khamenei said restoring ties with the U.S. now would "provide opportunity for security agents to come and go, as well as for espionage."

"It has no benefit for Iranian nation," state radio quoted him as saying at a student group meeting in the central province of Yazd. It would be an "opportunity for U.S. infiltration, traffic of their intelligence agents and espionage of Iran."
We now have the clearest possible statements from both the U.S. and Iran on their positions. Iran says it will negotiate when the U.S. drops its demands for regime change and an end to enrichment while the U.S. says it will negotiate when the regime begins changing and ends enrichment. As I've said before, though, the current U.S. administration see these positions as poker hands - raise or fold. The Iranians most likely see each as a first outrageous gambit in haggling towards a mutual middle.

There's a possibility that the Iranian leader is signalling a willingness to wait for a new, presumably Democratic, incumbent at the White House and try to negotiate a deal then.

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