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Iran In The Spotlight

Burns pointed out the fact the United States "has no relationship as, unique, complex and difficult as it has with Iran."

Washington (UPI) Dec 01, 2005
The United States and the international community remain highly concerned by Iran's intentions to attain nuclear capability, come what may. As Tehran pursues its aim to join the nuclear club, it is slowly but surely isolating itself from the rest of the world.

U.S. Under Secretary for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns explained the U.S. policy toward Iran Wednesday in a speech at Johns Hopkins University's Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies.

Burns pointed out the fact the United States "has no relationship as, unique, complex and difficult as it has with Iran." The United States, said Burns, has had no significant connection with the government of Iran since 1979. That was shortly after the Islamic revolution led by Ayatollah Khomeini ousted the shah and Iranian students stormed the U.S. embassy in Tehran and held 52 American diplomats captive for 444 days.

"Iran leadership," said Burns, "has chosen, repeatedly, to turn its back on democracy, human rights, and responsible action on nuclear issues and terrorism. A new era of complex and troubled relations began between Washington and Tehran, characterized by direct Iranian support for Lebanese Hezbollah terrorism against the United States, beginning in the early 1980s."

Yet paradoxically, despite mounting animosity between Washington and Tehran, a growing number of Iranian student continue to make their way to the United States every year just to enroll in American learning institutions.

By the mid-1970s, over 200,000 Iranians -- a phenomenal number -- were studying in the United States.

"But today the situation is drastically different. Two-thirds of Iranians today are below the age of 35 and have no personal memory of the revolution," said Burns. These young people are not responsible for the sins of their elders, nor for the multiple waves of terrorism launched by the founders of the Iranian revolution. Burns points out the tragedy "for the people of Iran, the hard-line defenders of absolute clerical rule struck back to suppress reforms and, for the moment, appear to be prevailing."

In February 2004, the ruling authorities blocked thousands of candidates from running for the Majlis -- the parliament -- including, says Burns, sitting members.

Since coming to power, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad opted for the hard-nose approach to international politics. In his first week in power, reports Burns, the new president, a hard-liner, suspended negotiations over the nuclear issue with the EU-3: Britain, France and Germany.

In September, Ahmadinejad defied the international community when he appeared before the United Nations in New York to announce Iran would pursue a nuclear future against the will of the rest of the world.

The Iranian president has also perturbed many people in the Iranian political establishment, and indeed many Iranians in general when he recruited from among his old chums from the Revolutionary Guard Corps to fill Cabinet positions in his new government. He then ruffled more feathers when he cashiered 40 experienced ambassadors from the foreign service.

Then in a speech in a Tehran school earlier this month he called for "Israel to be wiped off the map." Burns believes "President Ahmadinejad is digging a hole for himself and he appears determined to keep digging."

Indeed, Ahmadinejad may well be digging himself into a hole, but at the same time he is digging a hole in which he may drag many more into it with him.

With the Bush administration coming under pressure from not only Democrats, but also his Republicans to begin pulling U.S. troops from Iraq in the next 6 to 12 months, chances of increased Iranian influence in Iraq is only likely to grow. Iran will more likely than not try to quickly fill the vacuum left by departing U.S. troops.

Naturally, one should not expect Iran to openly dispatch troops to Iraq: That is highly unlikely. The ayatollahs will act in a much more discreet manner. Rather, their intervention would manifest itself in the form of support to their Shiite coreligionists in Iraq with whom they already enjoy close relations.

A vacuum of power in Iraq would also offer the Sunnis, a minority in the country, the possibility of bringing in more jihadis to fight the Shiites, whom some fanatics, such as Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, considers apostates.

Of course what the Bush administration would like to see before it starts pulling troops out of Iraq would be a change of regime in Iran. As Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice likes to say about the president and Iran, the president likes to keep all options on the table.

Bush said Wednesday time and patience was needed in order for victory to be achieved in Iraq. As in the past, the president refused to set a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. forces.

The president's speech at the U.S. Naval Academy, along with the release by the White House of an unclassified version of the war plan, was the most detailed explanation yet given by the president about his war strategy -- a strategy however that still left many unanswered questions.

What will happen in Iraq after a U.S. pullout? Would Iraqi forces be able to assume their own security, or would the removal of American forces open the way for an all-out civil war between the minority Sunnis and majority Shiites?

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Iran Offers Cold Comfort For Renewed EU Nuclear Talks
Tehran (AFP) Dec 01, 2005
Iran's hardline leaders appear more determined than ever to resist Western pressure over their disputed nuclear drive, raising the question of what any new talks with the European Union could actually achieve.

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