By: Meir Javedanfar
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s congratulatory letter to Barack Obama has increased the likelihood that the two sides will approach each other and start negotiations sometime in the future.
However, one must not overlook the fact that Ahmadinejad is not the strongest man in Iran. Khamenei is, and Obama should approach him, instead of Ahmadinejad or whoever may be the next president in Iran. This is because foreign and nuclear policy is made by the Supreme Leader, and not the president.
But what is the best way to ensure that Khamenei does take up on the offer?
Mehdi Khalaji, a senior fellow at The Washington Institute For Near East Policy (WINEP), focusing on the role of politics in contemporary Shiite clericalism in Iran and Iraq has made the following sound recommendation:
“A bold and direct U.S. offer to Ayatollah Khamenei, such as proposing that a top U.S. official meet with him in his Tehran office, would put Khamenei in a difficult position. It is possible — although not likely — that he would accept, especially if he believes that Iran faces a direct threat from economic failure or Israeli attack, or if he thought that American officials would treat him respectfully and end U.S. pressures on his regime. But even if he refused to meet, the United States, having tried to solve the problem through diplomacy at the highest level, would most likely find it easier to reach consensus with its strategic allies to increase sanctions on Iran”.
Some in the past have accused WINEP of being a right wing conservative Think Tank. Even if thats half correct, this article shows that talking to Iran is now becoming a bipartisan decision. This is a welcome change in US foreign policy, the fruits of which can be enjoyed by the people of the US and the Middle East.