The first steps on the path to Iran’s rapprochement with the United States were made back in 2001, when Washington began preparing the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq under the pretext that Baghdad was in possession of weapons of mass destruction. That’s when the first agreement on security cooperation between Tehran and Washington was signed, even though it took several rounds of secret negotiations to draft it. The Iranian delegation was headed by Ambassador Sadeq Kharrazi, the brother of former Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi, while Americans sent Zalmay Khalilzad, the man who supervised the development of the notorious Iran dossier and Afghan relations with the Kurds. The sitting Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was present in the delegation as well, since he used to occupy high positions within the Iranian mission to the UN. It should be noted that during this discussion, Tehran agreed to allow American aircraft and missiles to fly over Iranian soil to strike Taliban targets inside Afghan territory. Moreover, this deal was signed despite the fact that the CIA was well aware of the links that Iranian secret services had with Al-Qaeda, since Tehran wanted to take advantage of this organization in order to push Americans out of the region. The Al Yaum newspaper notes that the secret agreement was signed in spite of the opposition of the former Interior Minister of Iran Mostafa Mohammad Najjar, who believed that NATO’s agreement with the new Afghan government after the defeat of Taliban would compromise Tehran’s national interests.
Immediately before the NATO invasion of Afghanistan, Ryan Crocker, the then- Assistant Secretary of State held a series of meetings with the above mentioned Iranian diplomats in Paris and Geneva. Crocker promised that the US will secure the Iran-Afghan border in exchange for information on the location of hidden bases of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. All of this occurred against the backdrop of the Shura Council (Advisory Council) of Iran and Tehran’s mayor addressing American people in a bid to show their support to them, even though the then-President Mohammad Khatami carried on referring to the US as “the devil.” At the 2001 Bonn Conference on Afghanistan, many US officials positively evaluated the role of Iran in the fight against terrorism in Afghanistan, while at the same time, Iran remained a member of the US “axis of evil.” It’s no wonder that the former Iranian president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani in a statement that he made back in 2002, announced that the United States should remember that without Iran’s support, they would never have been able to overthrow the government of Afghanistan and suppress the Taliban resistance.
As soon as right-wing Republicans got the upper hand in American politics, American-Iranian secret cooperation was brought to a screeching halt. However, Iranians allowed US intelligence agencies to operate on their territory, while contacting the anti-Saddam movement that found refuge in the territory of Iran near the borders with Iraq. Moreover, a considerable number of American agents infiltrated the territory of Iraq by crossing the Iranian border, to be able to contact local Shia opposition forces. Americans were pretty active in contacting local Kurds as well, taking advantage of CIA agent Barham Salih who later became the Deputy Prime Minister of Iraq. In December 2002, during his meetings with the heads of diplomatic missions, Salih made no secret of the fact that the Americans will make Jalal Talabani the next president of Iraq, since this figure was supported by Tehran. Characteristically, Iranians have always handed over those American pilots that landed on Iranian soil or the Shia areas of Iraq, back to the Pentagon, when their planes were shot down by Iraqi air defense. But this has never been openly declared, to avoid the anger of ordinary Iranians, who despise both the US and Israel.
Eventually, during the US invasion of Iraq, the Iranians decided to go all in and sign a major deal with the US. The draft of the deal was handed over to the Swiss ambassador in Tehran, Tim Goldman, who was representing American interests in Iran, since Washington and Tehran had no official diplomatic relations. The package deal stated that Iran was prepared to recognize the State of Israel and establish diplomatic relations with it; to abandon its nuclear program; abandon its support of Hezbollah and hand over all members of Al-Qaeda to US secret services in exchange for Washington recognizing “the legitimate regional key role” of Iran and hand over all members of the armed anti-Iranian opposition group Mojahedin-e-Khalq, stationed on the Iraqi-Iranian border. In May 2003, a copy of the deal reached Javad Zarif, who personally handed it to Zalmay Khalilzad.
With American troops deployed on the Iranian border, American-Iranian secret cooperation was halted due to the fact that Washington no longer needed it.
The talks regarding a new rapprochement between Iran and the US resumed in 2015 after it became known that the representatives of both countries held secret talks on the Iranian nuclear program in Oman, the latter was hiding it from its closest regional partners – the GCC, especially Saudi Arabia and even Israel. Riyadh and Tel Aviv immediately protested against this fact, accusing Barack Obama of “conspiring” with Tehran at the expense of the interests of its traditional allies. There was a really good reason for these talks to be held, with a particular need to bring Saudi Arabia back into balance, a nation particularly vocal in announcing its displeasure in the weakening of Washington’s role in the region, along with US reluctance to get more involved in the Syrian and Yemeni conflicts directly. And Israel was rightly suspicious that Washington would try to reduce its support of the Jewish state in terms of defense, while leaving loopholes for Iran to carry on with the development of Iran’s alleged military nuclear program. This was followed by the announcement that was made by the Al-Arabiya channel, which quoted unnamed sources in Tehran saying that Iran was prepared to become a “policeman” in the region on behalf of the US, yet again. The channel would note that the nuclear deal is to be followed by yet another agreement – on the recognition of Israel and Iran, followed by the total rejection of Khomeini’s principles. And then supposedly there would be a third agreement under which Tehran would renounce Hezbollah, Hamas and other radical Palestinian groups, along with Yemeni Shia groups, followed by the betrayal of Bashar al-Assad himself. Then a new constitution would be drafted in Iran, which fully guarantees the transition of Iran into the so-called Western camp.
Perhaps all of this would sound like a fabrication of Arab journalists and political scientists, but for a number of details. The history of secret meetings between the representatives of Washington and Tehar, and, what’s even more important, a keen desire of the US to abandon Saudi Arabia as its strategic partner in the region against the backdrop of positive steps towards reconciliation with Iran, who has proven its ability to manipulate the situation in Syria and Iraq skillfully. In the meantime, Saudi Arabia will serve as bait for Russia to distract Moscow from observing developments in Tehran. And all this has been in the making for quite a while. In a statement that was made in Brussels on July 22, Saudi Arabia announced Riyadh’s and GCC’s readiness to open their markets for Moscow and provide Russia with its “share” of the Middle East.
Yet, the Persian “sages” and American think tanks have missed one crucial point – Moscow, too has its own analysts that have been monitoring carefully every step in the Middle East. There’s a reason why the coup attempt in Turkey failed, which was organized by the United States and Germany. And we should not be surprised, if the rumors about a secret visit by Bashar al-Assad to Russia would be confirmed. There’s talks that Assad agreed to sign a peace treaty with Israel, and that Lebanon will follow this decision as well. Should this “union” be joined by Turkey, what answer will Washington and Tehran provide then?
Peter Lvov, Ph.D in political science, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”