Saturday, May 26, 2007

Delegation Chiefs in Iran-US Talks

Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Husseini confirmed the appointment of Hassan Kazemi Qumi as head of the Iranian delegation to the 28 May talks with the US. Kazemi Qumi is the current Iranian ambassador to Iraq. The US delegation will be headed by one of the country’s leading Middle East experts, Ryan Crocker.

The appointment of Kazemi Qumi was a surprise. Iran analysts had expected the job to go either to the current Iranian ambassador to the UN, Mohammad Javad Zarif, or to Mohammad Javad Larijani, considered as one of Iran’s leading US experts. Zarif was said to have the backing of Ahmadinejad government. Larijani was pushed by his brother who is currently Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator.

It is apparent that there were serious divisions within the leadership in Tehran over who should head the delegation. Zarif versus Larijani choice was indeed an indication of a serious rift between Ahmdinejad government and Ali Larijani over foreign policy. Rumors in Tehran point toward Larijani’s desire to resign his post which was prevented by Khamenie. Kazemi Qumi’s appointment is another compromise in the growing rift within the leadership in Tehran.

Ryan Crocker, the US delegation chief, has been ambassador to Pakistan, Lebanon, Kuwait and Syria before being named as ambassador to Iraq. Crocker was also a senior member of the team which set up the provisional US administration in Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein. He is one of the handful US diplomats with experience in direct talks with the representatives of the Islamic Republic. After the fall of Taliban, he reopened the US embassy in Kabul and met the Iranians to get their support for the coalition forces in Afghanistan. Before the revolution, Crocker was US Consul General in Khorramshahr.

I do not know Kazemi Qumi personally and I am not knowledgeable of his capabilities, but he will sit across the table from a very experienced and professional diplomat.

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