‘Secret Discussions’

“I don’t trust the Iranians, I don’t think we need to bring them into this”: U.S. Speaker of the House Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio.

It became public after a leak on Friday revealed that U.S. President Barack Obama had sent a secret letter to Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The “secret” letter reportedly relates to cooperation between Washington and Tehran in the battle against the Islamic State.

In this context, two issues stand out: First, with respect to the Republican Party’s relationship with Iran regarding foreign affairs, history has still not taught the Republicans anything. Second, to assume that secret letters were published without involving the parties the letters relate to, as the media reported, is more than naïve.

While Republican shortcomings regarding Iran are widely known – the key word here is “Neocons” – it is still surprising how quickly “secret” contact between the United States and Iran is forgotten. For example, Washington has led regular, “secret” bilateral talks with Iranian politicians since 2012. These have concerned, among other things, nuclear negotiations between the five “veto” nations, plus Germany and Iran. In the face of the frosty diplomatic relationship which has existed between the United States and Iran since 1979, this was a mini-scandal in the public view. By and large, however, it was lost in the media jungle. For those familiar with the topic, on the other hand, these talks did not really come as a surprise.

“Secret” meetings between the Americans and the Iranians continued even after 9/11. Back then, as is still the case today, Qasem Soleimani, commander of the notorious al-Quds Force, played an important part. After the 2001 terrorist attacks, he organized meetings between American and Iranian diplomats.

At that time, these arch enemies were unified by the combined struggle against the Taliban. Today, it could be the destruction of the Islamic State group that unites them. However, the United States runs the risk of making the same mistakes it made at the beginning of its War on Terror – if the Republicans keep the upper hand.

Cooperation by Hook or by Crook

At the beginning of 2002, then U.S. President George W. Bush was able to count on the cooperation of Iran for a brief period before making the strategic mistake of identifying Iran as part of the “Axis of Evil.” The rest is history. Since this historic blunder, Washington and Tehran have engaged in bloody power struggles in Iraq and Afghanistan and, along with other nations, destabilized the entire region.

Whoever seriously believes that the Middle East can be stabilized without U.S. and Iranian involvement is either mistaken or has no real interest in the topic. The same is true for both countries’ pragmatism – as long as Washington and Tehran share mutual interests, they will cooperate with each other, be this in an official capacity, in “secret discussions” or via those channels that nobody really knows about.

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