Tehran, RoozOnline Various opinion polls show that despite persistent enmity and cold relations between governments in Washington and Tehran, the majority of the Iranian people desire that firm steps to be taken in normalizing political, economic, social, cultural and sports relations between the two countries.
The latest poll on Iranian-American relations reflects a similar attitude among people of the two natikons. According to the new poll conducted by the Zogby polling agency, which was released last week by the Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans (PAAIA), 85 percent of Iranian-Americans desire increased understanding between Iranians and Americans.
Various polls conducted recently shows that the majority of Iranians wishesrelations with Washington be normalised.
Although plans to open an American public interests section in Iran were widely publicized after remarks by the Bush Administration’s Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and widespread support of American senators, so much so that many mistakenly interpreted the move as a serious step in normalizing relations between Tehran and Washington.
The reality is that a similar request was voiced by American officials during the first term of the Seyyed Mohammad Khatami’s Administration, but pressures from the authoritarian camp opposed to Khatami’s plan to lower the “wall of distrust”, aired during his interview with the American CNN network, rendered such attempts ineffective.
The Clinton Administration voiced that view on the premise that the existence of an Iranian interests section office in Washington gives America the right to have a similar office in Tehran, so that instead of processing cases through the Swiss embassy or consulates in other places such as Dubai, Cyprus, Istanbul, etc., they could be processed in Tehran. At that time, attempts were made to purchase the “Ararat Club” for this purpose, but they were rendered ineffective in light of serious pressures facing this development.
US Secretary of State had suggested opening of an American interests sections in Tehran.
At that time, the logic for rejecting the idea was that in case such an office is opened in Tehran, immediately long lines of people seeking American visa would be formed in front of the office, revealing the deep gap between the wishes of the Iranian people and the views of the leadership regarding normalization of relations between the two countries, obviously tarnishing the reputation of Iranian leaders.
Unlike the reform era, Mahmoud Ahmadi Nezhad’s repeated visits to New York and request for visas and meetings with American officials on various levels have not only raised negative reactions but actually aroused the encouragement of the country’s highest officials.
It is for this reason that political analysts believe that such attempts for approaching the American Administration will likely intensify in the coming months ahead of the presidential election in Iran so that, if successful, it could improve the position of the autocrats. Though they have this undeniable desire, they also seriously worry that the “door of negotiations that is opened cannot be closed easily” and that, unlike the time of Khatami’s eight-year tenure, they would not be able to create obstacles on the path of improving relations between Tehran and Washington and form a dam against the public’s desire to reestablish political, economic, social, cultural and sports ties with the United States.
The main reason Iranian authorites do not want an Ammerican interests sections in Tehran is that the formation of long lines of people to obtain travel visa demonstrates the big gap between the views of the people and the leaders concerning relations with the US
It is rare that one would be able to find a political party or group or figure among the vast reformist spectrum that would oppose “direct, open and face-to-face political talks” between Tehran and Washington and not see the end of the 29-year political-economic disconnect between the two countries as beneficial for national interest and in line with the desire of majority of Iranians, whether residing in the United States or Iran, and even during Ahmadi Nezhad’s presidency.
Improving relations can in turn open the deadlock in negotiations between the group known as 6+1 over Iran’s nuclear plans, which would open up a path toward resolving other regional conflicts and issues and the Middle East peace process. ENDS US IRAN RELATIONS 191208
Editor’s note: Former General Director at the Islamic Guidance and Culture Ministry, Mr. Issa Saharkhiz is a well known journalist and political analyst.
This article was published by the independent, pro reform internet newspaper Rooz, based in Paris and London on 18 December 2008.