Time for Iran to Reciprocate

The overtures by US President Barack Obama in reaching out to Iran, on a number of occasions since assuming power, have been especially noted and appreciated by Iran’s neighbouring states, principally the UAE.

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Published: Fri 27 Mar 2009, 11:39 PM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 12:33 AM

The UAE President, His Highness Shaikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, in an interview to Qatar newspaper, Al Watan, preceding the forthcoming Arab summit in Doha, appreciated the US initiative in establishing a dialogue with Tehran. Though the Obama administration is unequivocally opposed to Iran’s acquisition of an alleged military nuclear programme, it has adopted a more reconciliatory approach in dealing with Tehran than the previous Bush administration. Obama’s recent video message to Iran further affirms the seriousness of the US commitment to resolve tensions and end a decades old political standoff between the two countries.

The biggest impediment to the US-Iran relations in recent years has been the Iranian activities in pursuing illicit means to acquire nuclear capability that Iran stresses is for civilian energy purposes. Despite opposing measures to deter Iran — which include both stringent economic sanctions and international offers to help Iran acquire a civilian nuclear capability through legal channels — the Iranian leadership continues its pursuit of nuclear capability through covert means. Apart from the big security concern of a nuclear powered Iran, the Gulf States are also duly concerned about Iran’s actions in the region. These include its interventionist policies in Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine, besides its sporadic attempts at inciting sectarian groups in Gulf States, as well as belligerent assertions in the form of provocative statements on the sovereignty of other states. The UAE’s long-standing dispute with Iran over its illegal occupation of the three islands of Abu Musa, Lower Tunb and Greater Tunb is yet to be resolved. Though the UAE leadership has made considerable efforts to maintain good relations with Iran despite the island dispute, and concentrated on dialogue and political solutions, Iran has refused to budge on the islands, or refer the case to the International Court of Justice.

Shaikh Khalifa displaying political wisdom and maturity has reiterated the necessity of dialogue with Iran to overcome regional tensions. He said, “Dialogue is required to overcome crisis. It is the sole channel to overcome problems in the region and usher in a new era of peace and stability.’ The UAE has also been urging Iran to pursue a similar programme as the UAE, of developing a civilian nuclear programme through legal international means.

Iran has been offered an olive branch since the change in US administration. Apart from the key chance of reconciliation offered by Obama, the Iranian leadership should realise that the regional position of its neighbours is strongly opposed to a military nuclear programme. It is time Iran dropped its abrasive and rigid stance and showed flexibility in its relations and dealings with both the regional states and Washington. It would also be a wonderful opportunity to repair its relations with the UAE and refer the contentious issue of the islands to an international body — in case both parties fail to reach a resolution. Above all, Iran can attain both a civilian nuclear programme and gain major economic benefits if it abandons its current isolationist position. The ball now is in Tehran’s court.

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