Tracing the Path of U.S.-Iran Relations

NPR Senior News Analyst Daniel Schorr takes on the evolution of the United States' relationship with Iran.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

A meeting is scheduled for tomorrow in Baghdad between the American and Iranian ambassadors to Iraq.

NPR Senior New Analyst Daniel Schorr is wondering, what exactly is up with Iran?

DANIEL SCHORR: On May 28, the American and Iranian ambassadors to Iraq, Ryan Crocker and Hassan Kazemi-Qomi, met in Baghdad. It was the first official contact since 1980 when the American embassy in Tehran and staff were ceased by the Iranian militants. The May 28 meeting was ostensibly to discuss the security of Iraq. Not much security has been evident since then, and the American government accuses Iran of smuggling agents and arms into Iraq. Other American complaints - the arrest and imprisonment of four Iranian American scholars, and Iran's pursuit of nuclear arms.

So now, another meeting has been scheduled for tomorrow, on the initiative of Iran, which announced it before the American government could. For the regime that was denounced by President Bush as part of an axis of evil, to be able to summon the superpower to the conference table is clearly a feather in the cap of the Tehran government. But surely, there must be something more involved in this unusual flirtation.

Iran and the United States in the past shared an interest in beating the Taliban in Afghanistan. And Iran, which denies sending arms and agents into Iraq says, it is interested in Iraq's stability. Clearly, Iran also wants influence in Iraq.

In the past, there had been signs of tension between the fierce Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and more moderate elements in Iran.

But tomorrow's meeting is apparently on the initiative of the Iranian Foreign Ministry and might open up some new perspective.

James Dobbins of the RAND Corporation, American envoy in Afghanistan under Secretary of State Colin Powell, recalls in the Washington Post that he was authorized to meet with the Iranians on any manner as long as Afghanistan was involved. Since then, Iran has hardened its position.

Today, Dobbins says, Iraq and the United States have logic coinciding interest in Iraq as they had in Afghanistan six years ago. So, keep your fingers crossed. Something good may come out of it.

This is Daniel Shorr.

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