The Iran-USA relations: Chabahar port can play a key role in rebuilding Afghanistan…

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Dr Farrukh Saleem

Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Ruhollah Musavi Khomeini, the 1st Supreme Leader of Iran, in a speech on 5 November 1979, labelled the United States “Shaytan-e-Bozorg” or the ‘Great Satan’. That was more than 29 years ago.

On 7 October 2001, when the Americans launched ‘Operation Enduring Freedom’, Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Hoseyni Khamene’i, the 2nd Supreme Leader of Iran, collaborated with the US military in bringing down the Taliban regime (India and Russia also provided intelligence along with logistical support while Tajikistan and Uzbekistan both provided military bases). Exactly four months after a joint Bush- Khamene’i operation brought down the Taliban, George Walker Bush, the 43rd President of the Untied States, in his State of the Union Address, placed Iran into his ‘Axis of evil’.

Is there an Iran-US patch-up in the making? All eyes are on the 45th Munich Conference on Security Policy (Münchner Konferenz für Sicherheitspolitik), the annual event, that began February 6 at the Hotel Bayerischer Hof in Munich, Germany.

Joseph Biden, America’s 47th Vice President, will be at the Hotel Bayerischer Hof (Biden is also scheduled to address the Conference). Others from America (who are scheduled to attend) include General David Petraeus, the Commander of US Central Command, James Jones, Obama’s National Security Advisor, and Richard Holbrooke, Obama’s Special Representative for Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Hoseyni Khamene’i has sent Manouchehr Mottaki, Iran’s 8th Minister of Foreign Affairs and Ali Ardashir Larijani, the current speaker of the Majilis, a one-time representative of the Supreme Leader Khamene’i at the Supreme National Council and also the top negotiator on Iran’s nuclear program.

There’s talk that Iran and America will come face to face at the Hotel Bayerischer Hof. As a matter of record, Iran and the US have been moving closer ever since direct talks between Ryan Crocker, the US Ambassador to Iraq, and Hassan Kazemi Qomi, Iran’s Ambassador in Baghdad, were held on 27 May 2007. The Crocker-Qomi talks were the first official and direct talks in the past 27 years. On 17 July 2008, The Guardian reported, “The US plans to establish a diplomatic presence in Tehran for the first time in 30 years…” adding that “a US interests section–a halfway house to setting up a full embassy. The move will see US diplomats stationed in the country.”

On 14 November 2008, a panel of 20 American experts, that included James Dobbins, former US special envoy to Afghanistan and Thomas Pickering, former US ambassador to the United Nations, called for “unconditional negotiations” with Iran asserting that “it was the only option to break a cycle of threats and defiance.”

On 9 January 2009, General Petraeus, while addressing the US Institute of Peace, said that the United States and Iran have “common objectives” in Afghanistan (Petraeus must also be looking at the Port of Chabhar as an alternative supply-route to NATO troops in Afghanistan).

On January 11, the New York Times disclosed that “President Bush rejected several Israeli requests last year for weapons and permission for a potential air strike insider Iran.”

On February 2, Mottaki told Tehran Times, “Resumption of relations with the US under the new circumstances is of prime importance and we are now studying the change of attitude and US policies…..” The same evening, General Craddock, NATO’s senior military commander, said, “NATO would not oppose individual member nations reaching bilateral deals with Iran for the transit of supplies to Afghanistan.”

On February 4, the United States Department of Treasury added the Party for a Free Life in Kurdistan (PJAK) to its list of terrorist organizations (PJAK has been active in trying to overthrow the ruling Iranian clergy).

The United States of America once again needs Jomhuri-ye Eslami-ye Iran. And, Jomhuri-ye Eslami-ye Iran needs the United States of America. America needs Iran to fight the Taliban-Al Qaeda combo in Afghanistan and America needs Iran to supply rations to NATO troops in Afghanistan. Iran needs America to break Iran’s isolation and Iran needs America so that Iran can once again attract global capital in the face of $100-a-barrel drop in the price of crude.

Iran has Chabahar, the port with direct access to the ocean, a road link to Zaranj in south-western Afghanistan and then on to the Kandhar and Bagram Air Bases. America needs Chabahar. America can open up doors for Iran to attract capital. Iran needs money–and lots of it–to finance its growing deficits.

Shaytan-e-Bozorg or a marriage made in heaven? (The News)

The writer is the executive director of the Centre for Research and Security Studies (CRSS). Email: