The meeting of the Iranian and the American ambassadors in Baghdad merits the adjective "historic" after 27 years during which there were no open negotiations between the two countries - neither direct nor mission specific.
Even though senior American and Iranian representatives had met for years, and the foreign ministers of the two countries held short and friendly talks, none of these encounters were called "negotiations."
On a practical level, the two sides presented their overall interests in Iraq and only in that country, and according to reports from Baghdad, the two sides are in agreement on some issues. The most important point on which the U.S. and Iran agree is the need to stabilize Iraq so American forces can withdraw within a reasonable time frame, and the country that will be left behind will not pose a threat to Iran. However, no one has spelled out how to do this.
Will Iran cease to provide weapons, intelligence and training to subversive forces operating against the government of Iraq and American forces? Will the U.S. agree to end its actions against Iranian representatives operating in Iraq? More importantly, will the two sides be able to develop, along with the Iraqi government, a plan on which they all agree?
But these questions cannot blur the new strategic standing that Iran has achieved as a result of the war in Iraq and the difficulties the U.S. is facing there.
The talks yesterday have identified Iran as a strategic partner for the U.S. and Iraq, and therefore, as a country that can also pose demands on other matters, with the expectation that they be met. After all, if the U.S. is willing to negotiate with Iran on a cardinal issue like Iraq, there is no reason why the nuclear question will not move from the corridors of the United Nations to a track of direct negotiations between the two countries, which is what Tehran wants. Washington will find it difficult to explain the difference between its willingness to hold open and direct negotiations over Iraq and continue to press for sanctions on Iran on the nuclear issue.
Clearly, if the two sides agree to continue their public meetings, and upgrade the level of their officials in the talks, not only will the nuclear question be on the agenda for discussion, but also civilian cooperation between the Great Satan and the Axis of Evil - a vision that has been promoted for years by the American petroleum giants and other private investors.
However, the countries in the region see not only a change for the better in a regional arrangement, but also the threat to their standing. Arab states, for example, tha t failed to prevent the war against Iraq, and since its outbreak have not been able to stop the collapse of the state, are witnessing how Iran, a country that threatens them and also symbolizes the rise of Shi'a Islam, enjoys a bolstered position with American support.
There is also a hard lesson for Israel in this meeting: The country that supports Hezbollah and Hamas, rejects the Arab peace initiatives and whose president threatens to wipe Israel off the map is benefiting from a strategic standing with Israel's strategic partner - America.
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