From an email sent by former U.S. National Security Advisor Gary Sick to members of Gulf2000, an Internet forum and database for Middle East scholars and experts at Columbia University, New York:
The op-ed piece by Iranian UN Ambassador Kamal Kharrazi in The Washington Post [on November 4, 1996] on "What We Want in Afghanistan" has attracted some attention, since it seemed to propose a coordination of U.S. and Iranian policies in the context of a U.N. initiative on Afghanistan. The U.S. reponse was dismissive.
I was contacted [on November 5] by the Persian Service of the BBC, seeking a reaction to the article. I made the following points:
In response to the questions from the BBC interviewer about a possible change in the U.S. dual containment policy after the elections, I commented that:
- The article reflects what appears to be a conviction in Tehran that on certain issues, such as Afghanistan, Iran has legitimate interests, and those interests are not necessarily in conflict with U.S. interests.
- Ambassador Kharrazi suggests that the U.S. policy of hostility and opposition to Iran on all issues is in fact counterproductive and that the United States should support the call for a UN initiative to find peaceful solutions to the Afghan crisis.
- Although the article does not call for a U.S.-Iranian dialogue, it does suggest that there is the possibility of a tacit coordination of policies through the United Nations.
- However, in my view, this possible signal from Iran was badly timed. Coming just one day before the U.S. presidential elections, it was almost certain to elicit a negative response from Washington, which would be unlikely even to hint at any change in U.S. policy toward Iran at the very peak of an election campaign.
- The talk about a change of U.S. policy was premature and could prove to be wrong.
- The recent statements by [U.S. Assistant Secretary of State] Robert Pelletreau had, indeed, put a more positive face on the longstanding U.S. policy of willingness to talk to Iran at an \official level, by suggesting that such a dialogue might be advantageous. In the past, U.S. officials had given lip service to the idea of contacts but, in the tone of their remarks, had discouraged such contacts and had implied that it would involve nothing more than a harsh U.S. lecture about Iran's behavior.
- However, it would probably be a mistake to read too much into Pelletreau's remarks, which were delivered to a business audience in Dubai, where contacts with Iran are commonplace.
- Also of some importance is the fact that a wide range of former high officials in the U.S. government (Zbigniew Brzezinski, Brent Scowcroft, Richard Cheney, David Newsom, Richard Murphy, and the former commander of CENTCOM, Gen. Joseph Hoar, among others) had raised questions about the U.S. dual containment policy and had individually suggested that it was necessary to deal with Iran and that some carrots might be added to the array of sticks that the United States had been using toward Iran. These voices are likely to be heard in Washington.
- I anticipated that there would be some review of U.S.Persian Gulf policies after the elections. However, Idetected no strong inclination on the part of U.S. government officials to alter existing policy.
- If there was a change in U.S. policy, the changes were most likely to be incremental, spread over a considerable period of time, and extremely cautious. I would be surprised at any sudden or dramatic shift, and I thought such talk was mostly wishful thinking by critics of the present policy.
An interview with Gary Sick (Jan/Feb 1996 issue of THE IRANIAN).