Ahmadinejad Desires Dialogue!
A very important development on the part of the Iranians has been widely ignored in the United States: President Ahmadinejad’s desire to open up a dialogue with President Bush and arrive at a negotiated settlement of the Iran-US nuclear dispute! In the last several months, Ahmadinejad has made many efforts to send such messages to Washington. He initiated the effort by sending his infamous letter to President Bush, which fell upon deaf ears. He then proposed a debate with President Bush, which was once again ignored. He visited the US last year when his Presidency was only a month old and he is in New York City again as I write these lines!
The most important sign that President Ahmadinejad wants a negotiated settlement of the US-Iran dispute is the response Tehran has given to the UN Security Council’s demand that Iran suspend its uranium enrichment programs. While Iran rejected this demand as a pre-condition for negotiations with the 5+1 group (which includes Britain, France, Germany, China, Russia and most notably the US), it has agreed to negotiate a suspension and has even offered, according to scattered reports, to suspend enrichment for a short while to allow for the negotiations to start. Iran has even slowed its enrichment activities significantly.
Iran had long maintained that the suspension of its uranium enrichment programs was not negotiable. The fact that it is now accepting to negotiate the suspension is in itself a major change of position, and must be encouraged with appropriate incentives and sincere offers of dialogue. The Bush Administration is best advised to hear not just the moderate voices coming from Tehran but also the voices from the hardliners becoming increasingly reasonable and even moderate with regard to relations with the US! The Administration must not be distracted by Mr. Ahmadinejad’s terrible statements about Israel and the Holocaust, particularly now that he has denied that he meant what the media has interpreted him to mean!
The American Iranian Council believes that there is no better way to settle the US-Iran dispute than through negotiations, and that there is no better way to help democratic development of Iran than for the US to normalize relations with Iran. Normal diplomatic ties, even in the face of continuing disputes between the two governments, are in the best interests of both nations. The Bush Administration should take Mr. Ahmadinejad’s challenge and show the Iranian people that it is prepared to arrive at a peaceful understanding with Iran. If Tehran were to fail such a challenge, it would pay a heavy price, both domestically and internationally.