Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : September 21st 2014 Contents A49
September 21, 2014 www.guardian.co.tt Sunday Guardian
US officials hope to prevent two
diplomatic challenges with Iran from
colliding next week: the Iranian
nuclear programme and the threat
posed by the Islamic State militant
Their basic dilemma is how to keep
Iran from hardening its stance in the
nuclear talks out of a belief, which US
officials say would be misguided, that
Washington might make nuclear con-
cessions in exchange for help against
IS.A related problem is how to address
the threat from the Sunni militant group
without somehow enlisting the help of
Iran, which has extensive influence in
Iraq and in neighbouring Syria.
A third difficulty is whether major
Sunni states such as Saudi Arabia will
be willing to participate in any coalition
against the Islamic State group if Shi ite
Iran played any role.
"In the long run it will be difficult
to find solutions without Iran," a senior
Western diplomat said on condition of
anonymity. "Mainly the Americans are
against that, but there are still some
members in the Arab region who are
... not very comfortable sitting with
Iran at the same table," he added.
Kerry: Iran has a role
While the United States has repeat-
edly ruled out military "coordination"
with Iran against IS, US Secretary of
State John Kerry said on Friday during
a UN Security Council session on Iraq
that he believed Tehran could play some
"The coalition required to eliminate
ISIL is not only, or even primarily, mil-
itary in nature," Kerry said, using the
US government s acronym for IS.
"It must be comprehensive and include close col-
laboration across multiple lines of effort," he said.
"There is a role for nearly every country in the world
to play, including Iran."
Whether Iran would play a role, without seeking
a nuclear tradeoff, remains an open question.
Despite pessimism among diplomats on all sides,
the United States hopes to make headway next week
toward a deal to curb Iran s nuclear programme in
talks already under way in New York between Iran
and major powers ahead of a November 24 dead-
Current and former US officials say the United
States can keep the nuclear talks separate from the
effort to counter IS, though they acknowledge it is
a concern for Washington.
"The Iranians could conceivably develop miscon-
ceptions in that regard but I think the administration
would be very careful to try to avoid any misim-
pression and to make clear these are separate issues
and that the US isn t considering tradeoffs between
them," said Robert Einhorn, a key US official in talks
with Iran until he left the State Department last year.
Suzanne Maloney, another former State Depart-
ment official, now at the Brookings Institution think
tank, said Iran might be emboldened to take a harder
line in the nuclear negotiations simply because of
the regional instability.
"I worry that the regional chaos is facilitating the
Iranians" perception ... that playing for time is a
reasonable strategy," she said, suggesting Iran might
try to roll over an interim deal, the Joint Plan of
Action, which gave it limited sanctions relief in
exchange for curbing its nuclear programme.
Maloney said the Iranians may conclude that "the
US is so overwhelmed with other priorities and has
so few foreign policy victories to its credit at this
stage that the president, in particular, might be per-
suaded to find a way if not extend the negotiations
then at least extend the JPOA," she added.
On the sidelines of the nuclear talks between Iran
and six major powers this week, US officials had
their latest in a series of bilateral discussions with
Iran that focused on the nuclear issue but touched
on the question of IS threat.
While they are long-time antagonists, US and
Iranian interests now appear to intersect in Iraq,
where neither wishes to see the Shi ite-led govern-
ment lose more territory to IS.
US officials fear the largely ungoverned territory
IS has seized in Iraq and Syria could become a breed-
ing ground for militants who then attack Western
Europe and the United States.
They also do not wish to see Iraq totally unravel,
which could endanger global oil supplies and call
into question the high cost in money and American
lives the United States expended in its attempt to
stabilise the country after toppling Saddam Hus-
For Iran, the extension of IS control in Iraq would
undercut Iranian influence in its Shi ite majority
As a result, the two countries may find that despite
their mutual distrust and the hostility of conservatives
on both sides to their cooperation, they have some
reason to make common cause against IS and could
perhaps find a way to finesse the issue.
"You don t want to be asking the Iranians a lot
for fear that they would then ask for something in
return on the nuclear negotiations," said Jon Alterman,
director of the Middle East programme at the Center
for Strategic and International Studies think tank in
Washington. "But you can still talk about what we
do and not do, and the Iranians can draw their own
US aims to keep Iran atomic talks
separate from Islamic State conflict
Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, left, holds a bilateral meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry, right, on
the second straight day of talks over Tehran's nuclear programme in Vienna, July 14. PHOTO: REUTERS
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