OSC: Iran Reaction to Possible US Interest Section

The USG Open Source Center reports on reactions in Iran to the possibility of the opening of a US interest section, i.e. a muted embassy, in Tehran.

OSC Report: Iran — Reaction to Mottaki’s Comments on Possible US Interest Section
Thursday, July 10, 2008 . . .

‘Iran — Muted Reaction to Foreign Minister’s Positive Comments on Possible US Interest Section Iranian officials and conservative media outlets have been unusually silent following Foreign Minister Manucher Mottaki’s statement that Iran might consider a US interest section in Tehran, suggesting the issue is still undecided by the leadership. Reformist media have characterized Mottaki’s remarks as a “green light” for diplomacy with the West.

In contrast to initially unfavorable reactions by officials to a 23 June Washington Post report that Washington was debating having an outpost in Tehran, on 3 July Mottaki said the idea of an interest section would be “considered” if it were officially proposed, and that Iran “welcomes relations” with the US at tourism and cultural levels (Iranian Student News Agency). Although officials including Majles Speaker Ali Larijani had been quick to criticize the initial reports of US consideration for an interest section, thus far officials have remained largely silent about Mottaki’s remarks. Media Increasingly Receptive, Suspicions Remain

Reformist media have noted possible benefits of an interest section, but largely absent from the debate are conservative media that originally charged the US aimed to establish an intelligence base and create unrest inside of the country.

The E’temad and Mardom Salari dailies defined Mottaki’s remarks as a positive step in US-Iran ties, calling it “another green light” by Tehran to Washington (3 July).
Although E’temad-e Melli questioned how successful a US interest section in Tehran would be given Iran’s “complicated” relationship with the US, it admitted that such a move would “increase the level of communications and cooperation.” Referring to the delay in the third round of talks between senior US and Iranian diplomats on Iraq, it stated that there is a “need to renew diplomatic channels” (5 July).
Citing instances of Hamas and Syria negotiating with Israel, the moderate Kargozaran daily argued that accepting the offer would not be construed as “political weakness or diplomatic backwardness,” particularly at a time the international community is “increasingly falling in line with America.” It said it would be “wise to watch for every diplomatic green light from whatever quarter” (3 July).

In a possibly related development, the head of the judiciary, Ayatollah Hashemi-Shahrudi, announced the creation of a new Foreign Visits Monitoring Committee, set up to monitor trips made by foreign delegations to Iran, stressing that any invitations or requests for foreign delegations to visit Iran would have to be studied and approved by this committee first (Javan, 29 June).’