Iran-US secret backchannel talks are a good sign – Asia Times

Iran-US secret backchannel talks are a good sign - Asia Times

Recent reports that the Islamic Republic of Iran and the US have engaged in secret negotiations to end decades of Houthi rebel attacks on ships in the Red Sea have sparked reprehensibility. For centuries, the two nations have unquestionably been at war with one another. How could they be engaged in creative negotiations?

On first sight this seems implausible. The Islamic Republic’s philosophy has had a significant impact on anti-imperialism and the dismissal of what is regarded as” US hegemony” since its creation following the 1979 trend in Iran.

Tehran has a tendency to divide the global system between those who it views as the “oppressed” and those who oppose the Islamic Republic, with the US serving as the tyrant and the Islamic Republic as the aggressor.

Before 1979, these ideas were a significant part of political culture and debates among some Iranians in response to what some people believed had been increased foreign interference. Ayatollah Khomeini, the Islamic Republic’s second high head, co- opted these tips.

In practical terms, this meant a refusal of the Carter government’s near role in Iranian matters, despite human rights abuses under the Shah of Iran.

The desire to accept US impact may have been attested in the 1979 hostage situation and the acquisition of the US embassy. Protection against the US even became a key component of the Islamic Republic’s ideology after the Iran-Iraq War that broke out after Saddam Hussein invaded Iran in 1980 because it was believed that Iraq had US help.

However, to watch the Islamic Republic’s connection with the US solely in terms of Khomeini’s philosophy or without recognizing the various techniques developed within the Islamic Republic over the years paints an false image. Generally, pragmatism and speech have also played an important role.

Mohammad Khatami, who was elected leader of Iran in 1997, was rational, and considered speech essential to the Islamic Republic’s philosophy. He aimed to remove Iran’s confinement from the global order that had been present since the Revolution of 1979.

In his 1998 talk to the UN on the topic of the goals of the Islamic Revolution and its reform, Khatami engaged in thought-provoking conversations. His conversation suggested that 2001 be the year of civilization dialogue, a suggestion that the UN general assembly universally approved.

In 1998, Khatami addressed the American citizens on CNN, as a part of this speech. He compared Iran’s search for a national identification to the American war of independence, saying,” We believe that what we seek is what the members of the British society were also pursuing four centuries ago. We can tell that there is a strong academic connection to American culture.

In 2001, Khatami condemned the 9/11 criminal attacks. Iran also ratified a covert agreement under his leadership to assist US troops in their Afghan conflict.

Axis of evil

But a combination of factors, including being labelled as a vital part of George W Bush’s” shaft of evil”, contributed to more strained relationships with Washington under Khatami’s son, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Although, Ahmadinejad was considered by many as a populist leader, his policy toward the US ( and Israel ) was aggressive, ideological and less pragmatic. With Ahmadinejad’s regime causing a dramatic rise in human rights violations, issues from the west, which focused on Iran’s uranium enrichment actions and Bush’s “war on terror” language, slowed the Islamic Republic’s ties with the US.

Reports of fraud in the Iranian presidential election of that year after Barack Obama took office as US president in 2009 resulted in Iranians in major cities taking to the streets. Obama condemned what he called the “unjust” violence against protesters. In response to Iran’s expanding nuclear program, EU, UN, and US sanctions weakened.

Nuclear deal

Iran’s political elite may now recognize the need to regain the legitimacy of the Islamic Republic both among the Iranian people and internationally. Hassan Rouhani’s election as president in 2013 helped some sort of resolve both of these problems.

In contrast to Ahmadinejad, Rouhani promoted a policy of” constructive engagement”. The Obama and Rouhani administrations held a number of secret meetings that resulted in the signing of the Iran nuclear deal, or JCPOA, in July 2015. In exchange for the sanctions being eased, Iran’s nuclear program was restrained.

Just one instance of this pragmatism between Tehran and Washington was the JCPOA. In response to the emergence of Islamic State ( IS), the US and the Islamic Republic also worked together. Iraq’s security situation was created by Saddam Hussein’s de-Ba’athification policy in 2003, which allowed IS to grow.

Despite having different priorities and having an ongoing conflict, the Islamic Republic and the US both needed to co-operate with what they perceived as the bigger enemy. This kind of backchannel communication was recently uncovered when the US secretly alerted Tehran to potential IS attack in Iran in January.

Ultimately, the Islamic Republic’s priority is its own survival. This is all the more pertinent following the massive “woman, life, freedom” protests.

The death in custody in September 2022 of a Kurdish- Iranian woman, Jina Mahsa Amini, for what the Islamic Republic’s morality police said was improper wearing of her hijab, sparked the largest protests since the 1979 revolution. Those protests drew horrific violence from authorities. The result was that a large number of regular Iranians questioned the Islamic Republic’s legitimacy.

Given the Islamic Republic’s current crisis of legitimacy abroad, it makes sense to balance its ideological fervor with a dash of pragmatism in its interactions with the outside world. Thus the indirect secret discussions with the US, which were conducted as the interlude between the Red Sea attacks and an Omani diplomat.

If the pressure put forth by the Islamic Republic and Washington on the Houthis and Israel, respectively, can bear fruit, both sides will have a better chance of achieving a political victory when they are most in need.

Shabnam Holliday is a University of Plymouth associate professor of international relations.

This article was republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.