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Iran 'Cooperates' on Its Own Terms

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

Iran has charged three Iranian-Americans, including the scholar Haleh Esfandiari with endangering national security and espionage. Relatives and colleagues of the three have denied the allegations, which were made just a day after U.S. and Iranian ambassadors met in Baghdad.

NPR's senior news analyst Daniel Schorr is following the evolving relationship between the U.S. and Iran, which he says may not turn out as Washington wants.

DANIEL SCHORR: Iran has lobbed one into America's court. In their first high-level official contact since the occupation of the American Embassy in Tehran almost three decades ago, Iran has managed to set its own terms for cooperation with the United States in improving Iraq's deteriorating security.

Cooperation is thus far limited to the unstable situation in Iraq. It was, as (unintelligible) drive at home that Iran, today, charged three Iranian-American intellectuals with espionage, which is a capital offense in Iran. The Iranian Foreign Ministry spoke of networks of spies. Iranian Ambassador Hassan Kazemi Qomi also made clear that the new diplomatic channel could not be used to bring up the issue of Iranian nuclear development. It is to be a single purpose line of communication. The way it would work - as proposed by Iran - is that a special security committee of Iran, the U.S. and Iraq would be created to deal with Iraqi security problems. Not clear, is what happens when the security problem is created by Iran through shipments of arms to Shiite militias in Iraq. Iran has denied shipment of arms or dispatch of intelligence agents to Iraq.

U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker said yesterday that he was looking for a change in Iranian behavior. Iran doesn't acknowledge that anything is wrong with its behavior. Iran emerged from the groundbreaking session with greater respect from the region and the world. Qomi said there would be more meetings, the next one, perhaps, in Tehran. This may turn out to signal a new chapter in America's tangled relations with Iran, though it may not be the chapter that the U.S. hopes for.

This is Daniel Schorr. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Daniel Schorr
Daniel Schorr passed away on Friday, July 23, 2010. See an obituary, photo gallery and an archive of Schorr's commentaries for NPR.
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