In the past month, reports from international media outlets have made it clear that the foreign relation front of Iran has been extremely busy. There have been consistent stories about negotiations between Iran and the U.S. concerning a nuclear deal, as well as other reports about Iranian efforts to break new ground in foreign relations. Clearly, Tehran is looking to increase its influence in the Middle East and beyond in ways that are counter to U.S. interests.
Iran-US Nuclear Talks
There have been conflicting reports from international news sources in regard to how the U.S.-Iran nuclear talks are progressing. Amos Harel of the Israeli daily newspaper Ha’aretz reported that U.S-Iran nuclear talks are progressing quickly.
Conversely, Trevor Hunnicutt and Parisa Hafezi of Reuters observed that officials in both Washington D.C. and Tehran have denied the veracity of a report from Middle East Eye claiming that there has been progress toward an interim nuclear deal. Hunnicutt and Hafezi said, “Iran’s mission to the United Nations also cast doubt on the report, saying: ‘Our comment is the same as the White House comment.’”
According to Middle East Eye, there were direct talks taking place on U.S. soil between Robert Malley, U.S. special envoy to Iran, and an Iranian delegation led by Amir Saeed Irvani. Middle East Eye also notes that Irvani is “Iran’s recently appointed ambassador to the United Nations, who also played a pivotal role in the initial stages of the Iran-Saudi Arabia reconciliation talks in Baghdad.”
But U.S.-Iran nuclear discussions definitely took place last month in Oman. According to Barak Ravid of Axios, Nasser Kanaan, spokesperson for the Iranian Foreign Ministry, confirmed that the U.S. and Iran held indirect talks in Oman during May 2023.
In a separate article, Barak Ravid said that “White House Middle East coordinator Brett McGurk traveled to Oman secretly on May 8 for talks with Omani officials on possible diplomatic outreach to Iran regarding its nuclear program….According to the three sources briefed on the issue, an Iranian delegation also arrived in Oman at the same time. Iran’s top nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri Kan was part of the delegation, one of the sources said.
“McGurk and the Iranian officials didn’t meet, according to the sources. The two sides were in separate locations with Omani officials going between them and passing messages.
“According to the sources, one of the main messages from the U.S. focused on deterrence. The sources said the U.S. made it clear that Iran will pay a heavy price if it moves forward with 90% uranium enrichment — the level needed to produce a nuclear weapon.”
The main mouthpiece of Iran, the Tehran Times, published a response to the Axios article, stating that it is the U.S. that is an obstacle for an agreement on the nuclear deal.
The Tehran Times article also referenced the Middle East Eye report. In addition, the Tehran Times article included a comment from an Iranian M.P. who corroborated the report and said that the U.S. is attempting to stall progress on the nuclear deal.
Another sign that there is some truth to the reality of a nuclear deal has come from Bagdad. Ahmed Rasheed of Reuters reported that the Iraqi government will pay Iran $2.76 billion of the debt it owes to Iran for gas and electricity. The payment will be transferred to Tehran and was permitted through a sanctions waiver with the U.S.
Wherever a nuclear deal is being shaped, it seems to be based on an Iranian promise not to enrich its uranium to a weapons-grade level of 90%. However, Iran also wants the international monitoring of its nuclear sites to stop.
Iran Remains Consistent in Its Anti-US Actions
The usual vitriolic statements coming from Iran are not new. Since the 1979 revolution, Iran has blamed the US. and other Western countries for the moral degradation of the world.
Revolutionary leader Ayatollah Khomeini dubbed the U.S. “the great Satan,” and this anti-West attitude is a cornerstone philosophy of the Iranian regime. Iran has never hidden its attempts to undermine U.S. interests in the Middle East.
Just this month, Iran said that it is creating a military-maritime alliance with Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States, India and Pakistan. Reuters reported, “Iran’s navy commander said his country and Saudi Arabia, as well as three other Gulf states, plan to form a naval alliance that will also include India and Pakistan.”
The U.S. response to such an alliance was quick. According to Breaking Defense, Cmdr. Tim Hawkins, the U.S. 5th Fleet and Combined Maritime Forces spokesperson, said, “It defies reason that Iran, the number one cause of regional instability, claims it wants to form a naval security alliance to protect the very waters it threatens…. Actions matter, which is why we are bolstering defense around the Strait of Hormuz with partners.”
Indeed, such an alliance between Iran and other Middle Eastern countries defies reason. However, it also sends a message to the West that Tehran, notwithstanding Iran’s civil unrest in the past year, is still full of confidence. The deep military connections between Tehran and Moscow and the arms support that Iran has provided to Russia in its war with Ukraine are all part of Tehran’s anti-U.S. agenda.
The American Government Needs to Take Action to Restore Middle Eastern Confidence in the US
The warming of the relationship between Saudi Arabia, Iran and the Gulf states show that the Gulf states have lost confidence in the U.S. While they do not trust Tehran, they also do not believe that the U.S has the power to stop an Iranian bomb.
Since the American withdrawal from Kabul, some Middle Eastern nations feel that the era of U.S. supremacy is over. China has pushed that particular narrative for a long time, and its role in the détente between Tehran and Riyadh is simply part of that philosophy.
With a presidential election coming up next year, many leaders in Washington do not have the energy to deal with this situation in Iran. However, a foreign policy miscalculation will make America look weak yet again, and it can have long-lasting implications on the position of the U.S. in the world. Let’s hope someone in Washington is paying attention.