Yossi Melman at PostGlobal

Yossi Melman

Tel Aviv, Israel

Yossi Melman is a senior commentator for the Israeli daily Haaretz. He specializes in intelligence, security, terrorism and strategic issues. An author of seven books on these topics, his most recent book, The Nuclear Sphinx of Tehran: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the State of Iran was published recently by Carroll & Graf. Close.

Yossi Melman

Tel Aviv, Israel

Yossi Melman is a senior commentator for the Israeli daily Haaretz. He specializes in intelligence, security, terrorism and strategic issues. An author of seven books on these topics, his most recent book, The Nuclear Sphinx of Tehran: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the State of Iran was published recently by Carroll & Graf. more »

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U.S. Needs Help in Iraq, Iran Wants More

It is premature to ask what the right agenda would be for the next round of U.S.-Iran talks. It is too early to judge and make predictions because this round's negotiations are not near completion. We know why the U.S. decided to meet the Iranians: it is out of despair for the mess in Iraq. In search of an exit policy, the Bush administration has come to an unfortunately late realization that without an Iranian hand, the chances of stabilizing Iraq are very slim to nonexistent.

Not that Iranian help will perform miracles. Even if Tehran were to genuinely assist the U.S. and the government in Baghdad in stabilizing and pacifying Iraq, al Qaeda and former Ba'athist forces could still cause serious trouble.

Iran, on the other hand, has broader interests. It wishes to extend the dialogue with the U.S. to other issues: its nuclear program, Afghanistan, the U.S. presence in the Gulf. And above all, Iran is interested in securing a U.S. guarantee that it will not be attacked. For Iran the talks at the ambassadorial level in Baghdad are only the beginning, the launch of a longer and deeper engagement. If the U.S. believes it can positively engage Iran in Iraq, i.e. stopping Iran from arming Shiite militias and reducing the involvement of Iranian agents in Iraq, without giving anything in return, it is wrong. Iran will not settle for less than a wider agreement in which Iraq is only one part of the equation. In return for helping the U.S. in Iraq, Iran will demand to gain political and economic dividends. The question is: is the Bush administration ready to pay them?

I believe it is in the interest of the U.S. (and of Western Europe as well as the whole Middle East) too to try to reach a larger agreement with Iran. An agreement which will defuse the nuclear crisis (and reduce the risk of war), pave the way for regional security covering Afghanistan, Syria, Lebanon and the Gulf, thus isolating radical Islamists. U.S. interests lie in a Shiite-Sunni reconciliation rather than confrontation.

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