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Why direct negotiations with North Korea, but not with Iran?

Reuters reports:
U.S. and North Korean officials will hold a third day of bilateral talks on Thursday in Berlin amid hopes of a breakthrough in efforts to curb the communist state's nuclear weapons program. A spokeswoman for the U.S. Embassy confirmed that U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill, who met North Korean officials for six hours on Tuesday and 1-1/2 hours on Wednesday, would hold more talks on Thursday.
I am convinced the German government would also be happy to host some bilateral talks between high-ranking U.S. and Iranian officials. Such direct negotiations might help Iraq and lead to a solution of the nuclear issue.
The BBC (via CQ) has learned from a "senior former US official" that "Iran offered the US a package of concessions in 2003":
Tehran proposed ending support for Lebanese and Palestinian militant groups and helping to stabilise Iraq following the US-led invasion. Offers, including making its nuclear programme more transparent, were conditional on the US ending hostility. But Vice-President Dick Cheney's office rejected the plan, the official said. The offers came in a letter, seen by Newsnight, which was unsigned but which the US state department apparently believed to have been approved by the highest authorities.
In return for its concessions, Tehran asked Washington to end its hostility, to end sanctions, and to disband the Iranian rebel group the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq and repatriate its members. 
(...) Observers say the Iranian offer as outlined nearly four years ago corresponds pretty closely to what Washington is demanding from Tehran now.
More international negotiations: German news agency dpa reports that US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice briefed German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday on the outcome of her latest trip to the Middle East:
'I have the impression that there has been some movement on the issue of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,' Merkel said. (...) Merkel made a revival of the Mideast peace process a key goal of the EU's foreign policy during Germany's current presidency of the 27-nation bloc. Rice said after her arrival in Berlin on Wednesday that the Mideast Quartet comprised of Russia, the United States, the UN and the European Union was likely to meet early next month in a bid to kickstart Middle East peace talks. Merkel said Germany would take part in the meeting in its capacity as EU president.
Observing Hermann adds a much needed dose of humor to the coverage of the "Mideast Quartet."

Endnote: Currently a severe storm is gathering pace in Germany. A weather expert talked to DW World about the unusual storm and predicts more storms in coming winters. I am more concerned about the upcoming political storms in the Broader Middle East.

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JW-Atlantic Review on :

It was not a rhetorical question! Why have senior U.S. government officials been meeting with North Korean counterparts for many years and despite all kinds of treaty violations, but refuse to talk to the Iranians directly and without a large number of preconditions?

Yank on :

I seem to remember Germany, France, and the UK already trying negotiations with Iran and failing utterly. If older, wiser, more acceptable Europe can't get anywhere with them, why should we stupid Americans try? We let you show us how it's done. And Europe failed. It did talk a lot though. What now? Talk just to talk? As in "stall" till doomsday. As in dummy-up to the mockery like a nation with no self respect? I think Europe wants us to negotiate so everyone can conveniently forget Europe's failure and blame us.

JW-Atlantic Review on :

"If older, wiser, more acceptable Europe can't get anywhere with them, why should we stupid Americans try?" Because the conflict is between Iran and the US. Iran seems to be concerned with having US troops on its borders and does not like the US talk about regime change. Iran does not feel very threatened, i.e. Iran will not bend to US pressure, but Iran is sufficiently concerned about that. Therefore they are determined to go ahead with the nuclear program and support the Shiites in Iraq. Iran apparently wants a security guarantee from the US and normal relations with the US. Obviously, the EU can't give any of this to Iran. That's why the EU-3 negotiations with Iran have failed.

Chris on :

Does send a mixed signal to Iran, no? "We'll talk to you once you detonate a somewhat successful nuke."

2020 on :

Clearly the U.S. has other interests in the Middle East than in the Far East. The multilateral nuke talks with Pyongyang will go on as military display of force is no option there. In case of Iran America's military force is the last factor that hinders Tehran's complete triumph as a regional superpower. Nevertheless America's military adventures have rather strengthened Iran, because they defeated Iran's enemies in Iraq and Afghanistan. Iran has interests in both Iraq and Afghanistan. As things are going they can expect an 'Anschluss' of south Iraq sooner or later. Russia and Iran agreed to build a nuclear power plant in Tajikistan and to open a transafghan corridor, a pipeline and electricity project linking Iran to the countries of central asia. Bush sits on Iraq like an ape on a grindstone. Iran is winning anyway, no matter what he does. The situation Bush is responsible for is so bizarre that I can even imagine Condy with a hijab in Tehran. (No. Just joking. But not completely impossible!)

Pat Patterson on :

With oil at $50 a barrel and access to capital being squeezed it will be the Iranians that will have to instigate talks first. Plus there is still the matter of some 66 American hostages held for 444 days. No American politician, Democrat or Republican, will approve unconditional talks with Iran for fear of ads showing Americans being led out of a US Embassy in blindfolds. Not with congressional and presidential elections in 22 months.

2020 on :

Don't worry about Iran's financial situation. And talking about embassies: You remember the hostages in Tehran, but do you also remember the bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrad 1999?

Markus on :

Pat, do you expect a formal apology from Iran? Never going to happen. The USA has to get over the embassy hostage crisis, if it wants to solve this issue. The hostage issue was the result of meddling in Iran's affairs for decades: Support for the Shah, coup against Motassadegh etc. Let's call it quits and have some rational policy. The US does not have the military resources to attack and occupy Iran anyway.

JW-Atlantic Review on :

"No American politician, Democrat or Republican, will approve unconditional talks with Iran" I hear you. Though, a new poll indicates that Americans are in favor of direct talks between their government and Tehran: Nonetheless, both publics are interested in improving U.S-Iranian relations. Large majorities of Americans and majorities or pluralities of Iranians endorse a variety of ways to strengthen ties, including increased trade (Iranians 52%, Americans 65%), direct talks between the two governments on issues of mutual concern (Iranians 48%, Americans 79%), greater access for each other’s journalists (Iranians 51%, Americans 68%), and more cultural, educational, and sporting exchanges (Iranians 46%, Americans 72%). (...) The questionnaire included 134 substantive questions on a wide range of international issues, administered in face-to-face interviews in rural and as well as urban areas. Both the Iranian and U.S. surveys were probability-based national samples of 1,000 respondents or more. [url]http://www.worldpublicopinion.org/pipa/articles/home_page/307.php?nid=&id=&pnt=307&lb=hmpg1[/url]

Pat Patterson on :

The US apologized to the Chinese and I believe offered reparations so essentially the issue is closed. The Iranians are already operating at huge deficits and have promised aid to their allies that will further dry up the capital markets in Iran. Finally whenever there is an issue that is important to Americans it is always suggested that they move on while at the same time bringing up a host of issues that makes Iran's actions acceptable and justified. Again I will repeat, any politician in the US that proposes unconditional talks with Iran does so at his own peril. And since most want to make it until retirement then some kind of accomodation regarding the hostages will have to be made by Iran. And as I've seen before 2020 brings up issues but gets the facts wrong. In May of that same year Pres. Clinton apologized to the Chinese government in writing. The CIA targeting officers were demoted and three of the group fired. And reparations were made to the families of the three people killed as well as to the Chinese government for reconstruction of the Embassy. Now if Iran were to offer the same thing I'm sure that the possibility for negotiations would be much greater.

2020 on :

Yes you've apologized so you are ecxused. America always seems to have an excuse for every bombing. I didn't get that wrong, but maybe some folks in China do. Or elsewhere.

Anonymous on :

Pat, "Again I will repeat, any politician in the US that proposes unconditional talks with Iran does so at his own peril." I agree. In fact, I believe *some* pre-conditions are okay. What is more important to you: An apology from Iran for the embassy hostage taking or preventing Iran from developing nukes? Starting negotiations could solve to the nuclear issue and some kind of face-saving apology and reparations for the US families. US had sanctions against Iran and tried to isolate Iran for nearly 30 years without any success. No apology. And thanks to the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, Iran is more powerful than ever. The US was kind enough to eliminate two enemies of Iran: the Taliban and Saddam. Now the US bogged down in Iraq and can't make any credible military threats against Iran. Sounds very unsuccessful to me. About half of all Iranians were born after the Iranian hostage crisis. Thus, you can't expect an apology from them. "Finally whenever there is an issue that is important to Americans it is always suggested that they move on while at the same time bringing up a host of issues that makes Iran's actions acceptable and justified." No. I also expect Iranians to move on rather than holding a grudge against the US for supporting Saddam in the Iraq-Iran war in the 80s as well the coup in 1956, the support the shah etc. Iran would have easily defeated Saddam in the 80s, if the US and Europe and the Arabs had not supported Saddam with weapons and money. A million (?) Iranians died in that war. Yet, I expect Iranians to move on and make peace with the US. US support for Saddam was enough revenge for the hostage crisis. Now it is time to make peace with Iran. Yet apparently Americans prefer an irrational policy against Iran, i.e. seeking an apology etc rather than starting negotiations.

Pat Patterson on :

Again everybody seems to be missing the point. Local American internal politics will trump international politics on this issue. Clinton apologized for slavery in Africa and Reagan apologized and paid reparations to American citizens that were interned during WWII. No one was still alive that had been a slave in America and many of the Americans that had been interned were dead. It's never to late. I didn't say one thing about my own opinion on this matter as I was trying to convey how unrealistic demands for unconditional talks, from the US point of view, are especially since Iran has set as a condition of unconditional talks the unfreezing its assets in the US. I also offered no excuse for the Belgrade bombing and as usual 2020 puts his own fabricated spin on what I did say. As to a credible threat against the Iranians I wouldn't ignore two carrier groups in the area and the potential for absolute air and sea superiority. The Iranians may bluster, ala Saddam, but they are acutely aware that they do not hold all the cards in this contest.

Anonymous on :

"Local American internal politics will trump international politics on this issue." I know. It's the same in Europe or in Iran. Many threats Ahmadinejad is making should be seen as internal politics rather than as serious threats. "I didn't say one thing about my own opinion on this matter" Sorry. What is your opinion then? "as I was trying to convey how unrealistic demands for unconditional talks, from the US point of view, are especially since Iran has set as a condition of unconditional talks the unfreezing its assets in the US." It seems both sides have set unrealistic preconditions. Perhaps the USA and Iran could negotiate about those preconditions for negotiations...? ;-) Or the USA and Iran just stop acting like a primadonna and make a deal as any smart businessmen or statesmen would do. Should not be so hard, after all, the USA and Iran made a deal after 9/11 about Afghanistan. Iran provided some help with the overthrow of the Taliban. Even Israelis and Palestinians negotiate with each other, despite their bloody history. If they can do it, the US and Iran should be able to do so too.

alec on :

is it cynical to say that Cheney & NeoConservatives Inc. are looking for another fight? I see no reason for the hostility towards Iran to the point of ignoring fairly reasonable offers, unless we are acting as the belligerent surrogate father of Israel....

Markus on :

Perhaps a war with Iran is their exit strategy for Iraq...

Yank on :

Iran is already at war with the US in Iraq. It is killing American soldiers and Iraqi people. North Korea isn't doing that. It had to show signs of being willing to negotiate in good faith, not just talk, talk, talk, like Iran did with Germany, France, and the UK for nothing for three years. Stall. Your simplistic attitude that "talk is good" needs re-thinking. Talk is what starts wars. If President Bush threatened to annhilate some country you wouldn't blow it off. Iran has no diplomatic relations with the US and never will have till it makes amends for attacking our embassy. You just don't do that without paying a price. Iran is the worst blot on the planet. Getting the people of other countries to fight its wars and die in it its wars. Threatening Israel with annhilation. Maintaining terrorists forces that it boasts about and threatens to send throughout the world. It takes some kind of magical thinking machine to unknow all that and act like Iran can be "talked" to. Saudi Arabia is deliberately crashing the price of oil to damage Iran's economy, because they fear the crusading popes of Iran too.

JW-Atlantic Review on :

You write about North Korea: "It had to show signs of being willing to negotiate in good faith" What signs are that? Why are those signs any better than Iran's support for the toppling of the Taliban and the offer in 2003? Why do you and the US government belief that North Korea is willing to negotiate in good faith? I don't understand it, when I think about the last ten years. My point is NOT that Iran is much better than North Korea. My point is NOT that negotiations with Iran will lead to a quick solution of all problems. Rather, my point is that the US government's approach to North Korea and Iran is very different, although North Korean and Iranian willingness to negotiate in good faith is not sooo different. "Iran is already at war with the US in Iraq. It is killing American soldiers and Iraqi people." Several Arab countries are supporting the Sunnis in Iraq. So Iran is supporting the Shiites in Iraq. One more reason to start negotiations with Iran. About the embassy hostage crisis. The United States has fought a war with North Korea in the 50s. The US has never (directly) fought a war with Iran. If the war with Korean war does not stop you from having negotiations with North Korea, why does the hostage crisis stop you from having negotiations with Iran? Negotiations are not appeasement.

ADMIN on :

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