'Iran to reject Kerry visit request'

Iran to reject Kerry vi

By BENJAMIN JOFFE-WALT / THE MEDIA LINE
January 4, 2010 17:03
3 minute read.

A subcommittee of the Iranian Parliament is set to reject a request by US Senator John Kerry to visit Teheran, a parliamentarian has told Iranian state media. Hossein Ebrahimi, a member of the Majlis, Iran's parliament, told the Fars News Agency that Iran's Foreign Relations Committee, a subcommittee of the Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, had "voiced opposition to the request after studying the issue" and was unlikely to approve a Kerry visit. A final decision on a visit by Kerry is set to be made by the full committee on Tuesday afternoon. Kerry, chairman of the US Senate's Foreign Relations Committee and a former presidential candidate close to US President Barack Obama, has publicly denied he has any plans to visit Iran. Iran's Foreign Ministry, however, confirmed last week that they had received a formal request from the senator. The proposed visit caused a storm among parliamentarians, many of whom have publicly criticized the idea over the past week. "Given the current turbulence that Iran is undergoing, I would be surprised if Kerry were allowed to come," Kourosh Ziabari, an Iranian columnist and political correspondent with Foreign Policy Journal told The Media Line. "There is just an endless war of words between the two countries, each speaking to their own principals and bases and there has not been a major breakthrough over the past few years, despite many chances, so I'm skeptical that a visit by Kerry would do anything anyway." "There have been goodwill gestures," he said. "The US wrestling team, water polo team and ping pong teams were all sent to Iran on the direct order of President Obama. We can't rule out that they haven't led to any fruitful results, but goodwill gestures is not everything that is happening and if there really were a major diplomatic breakthrough we wouldn't know about it, it would happen behind the scenes." Dr Seyed Mohammad Marandi, a lecturer at the University of Teheran, argued that the US was sending Iran conflicting signals. "At the moment the suspicions towards the United States in Iran is very high, especially since the US is seen locally as regularly interfering in its internal affairs," he told The Media Line. "Right now the US is funding dozens of news channels, many websites and many organizations that explicitly oppose the Islamic republic and call for people to try to destabilize the country. In such a context, Kerry offering to come to Iran really doesn't make a lot of sense to politicians here." "I think if the Americans want to be able to deal with Iran," Dr Marandi added, "first they have to send more positive signals to the country so there will be an atmosphere with greater trust." Hossein Bastani, co-founder of the Iranian journal Rooz, argued that while negotiations were in the interests of the Iranian government, allowing Senator Kerry to come was over the top. "After the recent elections, Ahmadinejad wants to send the message to the international community that his government is legitimate," he told The Media Line. "He thinks that if Americans negotiate with him it's a sign that the world sees his government as legitimate, so I think Ahmadinejad actually wants to negotiate with the Americans. But allowing someone like Senator Kerry to visit is going too far, because Ahmadinejad is not actually ready to give any concessions to the Americans." "It's not the first time that a normalization of ties between Iran and the US has been openly discussed in Iran," Bastani said. "But the response has always elicited a hard reaction from Iranian extremists. According to them, engaging the Great Satan, as they see the US, would mean ideological defeat." "They see normalization of relations with the US as dangerous to the Islamic regime and as such crosses a red line," he continued. "Even when representatives of the Ahmadinejad administration have been present in meetings that involved US officials, in Geneva for example, they have later had to try and explain that while they were in the same room as the Americans, they did not talk to them." "There are those who push for normalization, but it's important to remember their level of influence," Bastini added. "Iranian reformists, for example, support normalization. But most of them are in jail or under incredible pressure. Very few of them are actually within the regime and those that are within the regime have very little influence over foreign policy."


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