Yesterday, the Washington Post reported that Iran had agreed to new P-5+1 talks and expressed openness to direct negotiations with the US. Today, the AP reports … not so much. Iran’s real ruler — Supreme Ayatollah Ali Khameini — categorically rejected negotiations with the US, and might make the rest of the WaPo report yesterday less operative, too:
Iran’s supreme leader Thursday strongly rejected proposals for direct talks with the United States, effectively quashing suggestions for a breakthrough one-on-one dialogue on the nuclear standoff and potentially other issues.
The statement posted on Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s website echoes previous remarks opposing bilateral talks with Washington in parallel with stop-and-start nuclear negotiations with world powers, including the U.S., which are scheduled to resume later this month.
But the latest comments marked Khamenei’s first reaction since the idea of direct talks received a high-profile boost earlier this week from U.S. Vice President Joe Biden during a security summit in Munich attended by Iran’s foreign minister.
Khamenei’s statement also could spill over into the negotiations in Kazakhstan later this month between Iran and a six-nation group comprising the permanent U.N. Security Council members plus Germany. His apparent references to U.S. sanctions — saying Washington was “holding a gun” to Iran — suggests Iranian envoys will likely stick to demands for relief from the economic pressures before considering any nuclear concessions.
In other words, nothing really changed at all. Iran has always been willing at times to open discussion with the P-5 group, but only on its own terms, and only for two purposes. The first is to stall for time while their uranium enrichment programs gets closer to producing weapons-grade fissile material, at which point the game will be over entirely. The second purpose is to attempt to divide the West to make it easier to accomplish the first purpose.
As Reuters notes, Iranian diplomacy is actually going in an entirely different direction. The Shi’ite mullahs are seeking a “strategic axis” with the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood in … guess where:
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, on the first visit to Cairo by an Iranian leader in more than three decades, called for a strategic alliance with Egypt and said he had offered the cash-strapped Arab state a loan.
In a step by Iran to advance ties that were broken in 1979, the Iranian foreign minister said Egyptian tourists and merchants would no longer require visas to visit, Egypt’s state news agency reported.
Hey, how’s that Arab Spring working out for us in the Middle East? If I didn’t know any better, I’d say that Iran is attempting a form of encirclement with Israel, and showing that they’re not particular about Sunni/Shi’a rivalry to achieve their ends. That kind of policy could only have been put into play by the collapse of American influence on that side of the Suez Canal, thanks to a bewildering insistence on quick elections after Hosni Mubarak’s fall when the Muslim Brotherhood had the only real organization in the field to contest them.
Looks like Egypt’s Sunni neighbors have noticed, too. Morsi’s government tried to downplay Ahmadinejad’s visit:
Egypt’s foreign minister played down the significance of the visit, telling Reuters the Iranian leader was in Cairo chiefly for the Islamic summit beginning on Wednesday, “so it’s just a normal procedure. That’s all.”
He had earlier reassured Gulf Arab countries that Egypt would not sacrifice their security.
I wouldn’t bet on that, especially with Egypt’s oil reserves falling precipitously and Iran desperate for exports.