Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A Bridge Between Washington and Tehran?

President Ahmadinejad's proclamation that Iran is "ready for dialogue" with the United States, though contingent upon a "fundamental" change in U.S. policy, marks a softening shift in rhetoric coming from Tehran. Ahmadinejad's statement followed a similar declaration made by President Obama, who expressed his hope for rapprochement with Iran should it "send some signals that it wants to act differently." Though which leader will take the first step in this "sending of signals" is still very much up in the air, there is a possibility of Turkish mediation once again entering into the picture.

In November, Prime Minister Erdoğan told the New York Times' Sabrina Tavernise that Turkey wants to facilitate talks between the two countries. The U.S.-Iran mediation scheme falls amidst a host of other attempts by Turkey to demonstrate its soft power. While Turkey fears a nuclear Iran on its borders, trade between both countries has grown in recent years and diplomatic relations tightened. And, though it is unlikely that Turkey will play the role of the interlocutor it desires (see Schleifer, EurasiaNet, Nov. 21), especially given the increased angst of Washington policymakers in the wake of Davos, it will be interesting in the weeks and months ahead to see just how Turkey responds to new diplomatic opportunities born from the changing relationship between Washington and Tehran.

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