Iran has responded coolly to a letter sent by President Barack Obama in the heat of the crisis over the Strait of Hormuz, revealing that the two countries continue to remain hostage to the high level of mistrust that they have accumulated over decades.
While the White House has so far not commented on the letter, the New York Times had earlier reported that the Obama administration had contacted Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in the wake of Iran's threat to block the Strait of Hormuz, a gateway through which nearly 20 per cent of the world oil supplies pass.
In response to President Obama's outreach, Ali Akbar Salehi, Iran's Foreign Minister, during a visit to Turkey said on Thursday that Tehran would not accept any U.S. preconditions to begin talks. “Mr. Obama sent a letter to Iranian officials, but America has to make clear that it has good intentions and should express that it's ready for talks without conditions,” he observed.
“Out in the open they show their muscles but behind the curtains they plead to us to sit down and talk. America has to pursue a safe and honest strategy so we can get the notion that America this time is serious and ready.” Iranian officials cite a litany of “betrayals” that they have suffered, starting from the December 2001 Bonn conference when Tehran had cooperated with Washington over Afghanistan, only to be designated shortly afterwards by former U.S. President George Bush as a country that belonged to an “axis of evil”.
Iran is also emphatic about starting not a piecemeal but a “comprehensive” dialogue with the U.S., which should recognise the primacy of Iran's strategic importance in the Persian Gulf.
The Iranian daily Tehran Times, citing Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast is reporting that the Mr. Obama had sent his message to the Iranian authorities through three separate channels.
“Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, delivered a letter to Mohammad Khazaii, the Islamic Republic of Iran's ambassador [to the U.N.]. The Swiss ambassador to Tehran [Livia Leu Agosti] also conveyed the message, and Jalal Talabani, the Iraqi President, conveyed the message to officials of the Islamic Republic of Iran as well,” Mr. Mehmanparast said.
Elaborating, Iranian lawmaker Ali Motahhari said that in the letter the U.S. side had made it clear that that ‘closing the Strait of Hormuz is our red line'. However, Mr. Obama in his missive “has announced readiness for negotiation and the resolution of mutual disagreements”. Iran's Vice-President Mohammad Reza Rahimi had earlier warned that Iran would close the Strait of Hormuz, in case Iran's western adversaries choked Tehran's global oil exports, the country's economic lifeline.
In his response, Mohsen Rezayee, a former commander of the elite Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC) has disclosed that Mr. Obama's letter suggests Washington's readiness to accept Iran as a regional heavyweight, provided Tehran endorses the United States' primary role in the Persian Gulf waters till the Strait of Hormuz.
Mr. Rezayee said: “Mr. Obama has written a cunning letter and intended to claim that the U.S. is responsible for maintaining the security of the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, while Iran itself is responsible for maintaining the security of this region.” Rejecting Washington's military presence in Iran's neighbourhood, Mr. Rezayee stressed that there was “no need for the presence of extra-regional forces to maintain the security of this region, and we believe that the presence of the United States and Britain mostly creates insecurity”.