U.S. and Iran Lower the Heat

M K Bhadrakumar offers a thought-provoking read of the state of play in U.S.-Iranian relations. Based on a series of restrained responses on both sides to events that at other times might have provoked more hostile reactions, he suggests that Washington might be preparing the waters for some sort of engagement. Unlike many American commentators, Bhadrakamur seemed to think that the Petraeus/Crocker hearings “. . .turned out to be a low-key affair that was deliberately, almost ostentatiously, mild in rhetoric against Iran.” The announcement that Tehran planned to install 3,000 centrifuges at Natatnz? Barely a shrug.

On the Iranian side, the Fars news agency, which Bhadrakumar says is closely aligned with the Revolutionary Guards, leaked a story placing the blame for Hezbollah mastermind Imad Mughniyeh’s assassination on Saudi Arabia, essentially removing any pretext for a Hezbollah attack on Israel. But more significantly, Iran is making overtures to the U.S. with regard to stabilizing Iraq. Bhadrakamur interpreted the Tehran visit by Ibrahim Jalafari (who has close British and American ties) that I flagged the other day as a back-channel to which Tehran responded with vocal support. He also points out that the Iranians also condemned the mortar attacks on the Green Zone.

A lot will depend on the upcoming Iraq security conference scheduled for later this month in Kuwait, as well as on Iran’s response to an American invitiation to a tri-lateral conference on Iraq security. And even if positive outcomes at those conferences don’t lead to further engagement, they’ll still be welcome developments. But if both countries are to take a step towards engagement, it will almost certainly revolve around Iraq.

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