It was 5 years and 1 administration ago that an American official sat down and talked with his Iranian counterpart. On May 28, 2007, in Baghdad, Iraq, U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker and Iranian Ambassador Hassan Kazemi Qomi met face to face for 4 hours. It marked the 1st formal session between Iran and the United States, as I wrote in a post entitled Trying the talking cure, “since 1979, the year that the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini led an Islamic revolution marked by the ouster of Iran’s Shah, invasion of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, and seizure of 52 Americans who were held hostage for more than a year.”
That meeting did not spark a resumption in direct negotiations. Nor has participation in 7-sided talks – Iran plus the P5+1 – done much to ease tensions. To the contrary, rhetoric on both sides has remained heated, and what the U.S. State Department itself calls “unprecedented sanctions” against Iran have been stepped up. Indeed, a striking aspect of this year’s award-winning film Argo is how little U.S.-Iran relations seem to have changed since Tehran 1979.
Yet news this weekend suggested a different direction.
On Saturday, At a security conference in Munich, Germany, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden indicated that direct talks could occur:
‘We have made it clear at the outset that we would be prepared to meet bilaterally with the Iranian leadership …. That offer stands, but it must be real and tangible ….’
Then yesterday Ali Akbar Salehi, the Foreign Minister of Iran, signaled approval:
‘Yes we are ready for negotiations’ … [if] … ‘the other side this time comes with authentic intentions … fair and real intentions ….’
Given the nuclear and other geopolitical stakes, these stirrings of another go at the talking cure are most welcome.