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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Analysis: Tehran Wants to Talk

Council on Foreign Relations

May 25, 2006
Prepared by: Robert McMahon

Iran's political establishment appears to be reaching out to Washington for direct talks to try to resolve the dispute over its nuclear program. The Washington Post quotes analysts, foreign diplomats, and U.S. officials as saying Tehran has been using a range of intermediaries to convey to the United States its interest in talks. Iran's Supreme National Security Council chief and top nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, reportedly sent such a message through UN nuclear agency head Mohammed ElBaradei, who had high-level meetings in Washington this week. ElBaradei declined to directly mention Larijani but described himself as an "honest broker" between the United States and Iran who brings "their different perspectives to each other."

The Bush administration believes Iran is trying to shift the focus to Washington rather than respond to calls by the UN Security Council and International Atomic Energy Agency to suspend its program and accept nuclear fuel from abroad. White House spokesman Tony Snow says "there may be some opportunities" for direct talks, but they depend on Iran suspending its uranium-enrichment program, which Washington suspects is cover for a nuclear bomb program (USA Today). Arms proliferation expert Paul Kerr tells Bernard Gwertzman any such concession by Iran would likely have to include a U.S. pledge not to seek regime change.

International calls for U.S.-Iran talks have intensified since Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad earlier this month sent a letter to President George W. Bush. The rambling letter repeated criticisms of U.S. policy and of Israel, but many believe that more important is the fact of the correspondence itself—the first by an Iranian leader to a U.S. president in nearly twenty-seven years.


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Copyright 2006 by the Council on Foreign Relations. This material is republished on GlobalSecurity.org with specific permission from the cfr.org. Reprint and republication queries for this article should be directed to cfr.org.



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