July 25, 2007


US-Iran dialogue on a tortuous path (Kaveh L Afrasiabi, 7/26/07, Asia Times)

Coinciding with a new low in Iranian-Saudi relations, reflected by Iran's intense reaction to a religious decree by two prominent Saudi clergymen sanctioning the destruction of revered Shi'ite shrines in Iraq, this second round of US-Iran talks is supposed to enhance the initial contact between Washington and Tehran in late May. Yet an important prerequisite for a successful breakthrough in the talks is missing: a common recognition of the reasons for the chaos in post-Saddam Hussein Iraq.

Increasingly, Iran's officials and media pundits have focused on the negative role of Saudi Arabia, wondering aloud why the US government and US public are quiet about the irrefutable evidence of the Saudi role in fomenting the instability in Iraq, this in light of the US military's latest report that more than 60% of the foreign fighters are Saudi nationals and several thousand of them are in US custody in Iraq.

"What would happen if, instead of Saudis, these suicide bombers were from Iran?" an Iranian parliamentarian recently asked reporters when he accused the US of duplicity and double standards in turning a blind eye to Saudi Arabia's subversive role.

Hence it is expected that at their meeting with the US diplomats in Baghdad, Iran's delegation will raise the issue of US laxity vis-a-vis Saudi Arabia and, indeed, the whole Wahhabi and Salafi movement, which, per a recent Tehran daily editorial, is "opposed to the security talks between Iran and the US government".

Most Iranian political analysts are in agreement that the Saudis are afraid of democracy in Iraq and the empowerment of Iraqi Shi'ites, which they believe would inflame the situation of the long-oppressed Shi'ite minority in Saudi Arabia. "It is not just the Saudi kingdom, the whole Gulf Cooperation Council [GCC] states run by oil sheikhs are wary of an Arab democracy blossoming in Iraq," a Tehran University political scientist recently said.

We're allies whether we like it or not.

Posted by Orrin Judd at July 25, 2007 10:24 PM
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