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.
The 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.