Tehran will hold face-to-face talks with Washington only if there is a “concrete shift” in US policy toward Iran, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said today [AFP]. His remarks made in Azeri capital of Baku echoed President Ahmadinejad’s comments on 10 February that Iran was ready for a dialogue as long as change in the US attitude towards Tehran was “fundamental and not tactical” [IRNA]. US President Barak Obama had earlier called for direct dialogue with Tehran, raising hope for “sitting across the table, face to face” with Iranian officials [AP, 9 February].
Asked to define the “concrete shift” required of the US, Mottaki replied: “They know well.”
The concrete shift from the Iranian perspective includes reversing the regime change policy of the previous administration, stopping military threats and economic sanctions over the uranium enrichment program, and recognizing the Islamic Republic as the major regional player in the most volatile corner of the world.
What Iran is ready to do in return is the topic of an intense debate within the Islamic Republic. Not all the “principlists” (the hardliners) are ready to accept limits on the nuclear program or disengagement with extremist organizations in the region. Ayatollah Khamenie, the Supreme Leader, will be forcing a solution to unite the different principlist leaders. Obama was elected on an agenda of change. Khamenei will now have to define his own agenda of change.