IRAN has launched a major diplomatic drive to break its long
In the aftermath of the Gulf war, the Islamic republic has
restored diplomatic ties with Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Jordan, and
Tunisia, and has strengthened existing relations with all the
emirates on the southern shore of the Persian Gulf.
Europe is also a focus. Iran is working on gaining a diplomatic
opening in the European Community, sources say, and has convinced
Britain and the Netherlands to reopen their embassies in Tehran and
has strengthened existing ties with all other EC countries.
French President Francois Mitterrand on May 3 formally invited
his Iranian counterpart, Hashemi Rafsanjani, to visit Paris. It is
the first announced trip by an Iranian post-revolutionary leader to
a major Western country and was described over the weekend by
Western diplomats in Tehran as "a diplomatic triumph for Mr.
But thus far diplomatic overtures by Iran have not included
gestures toward the United States.
"Over the past 10 years Iran and the US have been at odds on
almost every international issue," says an enigmatically smiling
Iranian diplomat. Asked if there was any prospect of an early
improvement in Iran-US relations, he replies:
"Even Kuwait's invasion last year by Iran's arch enemy Iraq
didn't allow Washington and Tehran to bridge their disagreements.
Meanwhile, it made both capitals realize that they have a problem in
common: What to do with Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and how to
deal with postwar Iraq?
"This may in the longer term force our two countries' leaders to
sit and talk to one another," the diplomat says.
The main question, according to Western diplomats here, is
whether Iran is at present interested in resuming ties with the US.
A majority of parliamentary deputies led by Ahmad Khomeini, the
son of Ayatollah Khomeini, the late guide of the Islamic revolution,
still refuse any contact with Washington.
Mr. Khomeini said April 23 that "resuming relations with America
would be against Islamic values." More recently, those radical
deputies criticized Rafsanjani's Cabinet for allowing a US plane
loaded with tents and clothes for Kurdish refugees to land at Tehran
An editorialist in an Islamic newspaper went so far as to write
that the clothes sent might be infected with the AIDS virus. A few
hours later a senior civil servant with the Interior Ministry said
used clothing would be returned to the US.
The move was interpreted by Westerners in Tehran as the result of
a compromise between the Cabinet and the legislative.
Rafsanjani and most of his ministers have a somewhat different
attitude toward the US. Though they continue to criticize the US
government for "its hostile attitude toward the Islamic republic and
its imperialist policy in the region," these officials never say
they definitely rule out resumption of diplomatic ties with the US. …