U.S. Stationing Diplomats in Iran

The United States has not had a formal diplomatic presence in Iran since our embassy there was stormed and its staff taken hostage on November 4, 1979.  That may soon change, Ewen MacAskin reports for The Guardian.

Iranians pass a US flag with a sign reading \'Death to America\' as they attend a rally in Tehran, in 2004. Photograph: Hasan Sarbakhshian/APThe Guardian has learned that an announcement will be made in the next month to establish a US interests section – a halfway house to setting up a full embassy. The move will see US diplomats stationed in the country.

The news of the shift by Bush who has pursued a hawkish approach to Iran throughout his tenure comes at a critical time in US-Iranian relations. After weeks that have seen tensions rise with Israel conducting war games and Tehran carrying out long-range missile tests, a thaw appears to be under way.

[…]

A frequent complaint of the Iranians is that they want to deal directly with the Americans instead of its surrogates, Britain, France and Germany.

Bush has taken a hard line with Iran throughout the last seven years but, in the dying days of his administration, it is believed he is keen to have a positive legacy that he can point to.

The return of US diplomats to Iran is dependent on agreement by Tehran. But President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad indicated earlier this week that he was not against the opening of a US mission. Iran would consider favourably any request aimed at boosting relations between the two countries, he said.

[…]

The special interests section would be similar to the one in Havana, Cuba. The US broke off relations with Cuba in 1961 after Castro’s takeover but US diplomats returned in 1977. The special interests section carries out all the functions of an embassy. It is, in terms of protocol, part of the Swiss embassy but otherwise is staffed by Americans and independent of the Swiss.

The fact of the matter is that we have had diplomatic relations with the Iranian government in all but name throughout this period.  Indeed, we negotiated the release of our Embassy hostages.  Less happily, the Reagan administration engaged in a convoluted and illegal sale of arms to the Iranians in exchange for cash to illegally support the Nicaraguan Contras.  And the Bush administration, despite saber rattling, has obviously been talking as well.

The amusing thing about these reports is the stance that our relations with Iran deteriorated markedly under Bush.  After all, Bill Clinton had eight years in office during a much more settled period in U.S. – Middle East relations and made no serious moves in this direction.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Bithead says:

    And the Bush administration, despite saber rattling, has obviously been talking as well.

    The amusing thing about these reports is the stance that our relations with Iran deteriorated markedly under Bush. After all, Bill Clinton had eight years in office during a much more settled period in U.S. – Middle East relations and made no serious moves in this direction.

    ANd so we see leftists who have been screaming that we should be talking to Iran wandering around in circles, talking to themselves as they find Bush has already been doing it.

  2. Dave Schuler says:

    There were attempts at rapprochement by both sides and mutual snubs during the Clinton Administration. It’s not that there weren’t any attempts. It’s that there wasn’t a great deal of follow-through.

  3. Hal says:

    ANd so we see leftists who have been screaming that we should be talking to Iran wandering around in circles

    Um, no. What the American public sees is an administration who literally called such actions “appeasement” just a few short weeks ago, apparently start doing what liberals and the democratic nominee have been calling for – for years.

    Keep putting lipstick on that pig, Dr. B. Regardless of the reality of the situation – certainly, I don’t think it’s this silly black and white cartoon – this is the way it looks. Your feeble attempts at spin won’t play to anyone who isn’t a ditto head.

  4. anjin-san says:

    they find Bush has already been doing it.

    And to think that, such a short time ago, the right was accusing Obama of being a proto-traitor for wanting to do just this…

  5. anjin-san says:

    Sounds a lot like appeasement to me. That is, if we redefine the term to mean anything other than “shoot first, ask questions later.” Which, as I understand it, we have.

    non-concur.

    Appeasement, in this context has always meant ‘unconditional’ talks with Iran.
    Posted by Bithead | May 22, 2008 | 11:08 am | Permalink

  6. Hal says:

    roflmao

  7. Bithead says:

    Um, no. What the American public sees is an administration who literally called such actions “appeasement” just a few short weeks ago, apparently start doing what liberals and the democratic nominee have been calling for – for years

    heh.
    Does the word ‘negotiation’ mean anything to you, in context?

  8. Steve Plunk says:

    No one called Obama a traitor of any kind for pushing more diplomacy, we called him naive.

    The Bush administration appears to be using a carrot and stick, good cop-bad cop, whatever you want to call it approach. You could say it’s nuanced even. Of course it could have been the Iranians who made the initial gestures of reconciliation.

    While we are all guessing at what has been and is happening the one thing I know for sure is with some people Bush just can’t win.

  9. Bithead says:

    And to think that, such a short time ago, the right was accusing Obama of being a proto-traitor for wanting to do just this…

    No, I called him such for wanting to do it unconditionally. Major difference. Clearly, given the nature of this thing there’s a lot going on here we still don’t know about.

  10. anjin-san says:

    with some people Bush just can’t win.

    Not true. This is a good thing, just as attempting to work out our issues with N Korea without violence is one. I will always give credit where credit is due.

    None of this changes the fact that the right was screaming “appeasement” at Obama just a short time ago. There is a huge leap from “naive” to appeasement, (which is what was being said) and I suspect you know it. Spin it all you want, Obama was calling for what Bush had apparently already been doing in a quiet way. And the right eviscerated him for it. Politics above country…

  11. anjin-san says:

    there’s a lot going on here we still don’t know about

    Interesting that, given the grave threat to western civilization that you say Iran represents, you are not enraged and demanding to know the Bush negotiating position, right now, today. President above country, Politics above country, every time…

  12. anjin-san says:

    I mean really Bit, when you are on your knees being converted at the point of a sword, perhaps you will wish you had demanded a few details about what was going on.

    These people are suicidal fanatics who will gladly sacrifice 100 of themselves to get one of us. How the hell can we negotiate with them? They are just stalling so that they can attack with nukes hours after obtaining them…

  13. Hal says:

    Does the word ‘negotiation’ mean anything to you, in context?

    Does the word “tool” mean anything to you, in context?

  14. anjin-san says:

    Guess the Bushies have fled, and who can blame them?

  15. Hal says:

    Nah, this is just snubbing and a show of contempt. They’ve won and they don’t need to sink to our level.