It’s the fog of diplomacy.
For years, Iran has been an archenemy of the United States. Now, with alliances blurred in the Mideast, the two countries are talking about how to stop an offensive in Iraq by al-Qaida-inspired insurgents.
How is it that adversaries that haven’t trusted each other for 35 years could cooperate on Iraq today?
They are strange bedfellows, to say the least.
In the Syrian civil war, the U.S. backs the opposition. Iran supports Syrian President Bashar Assad.
The U.S. for three decades has considered Iran a “state sponsor of terrorism.” The U.S. says Iran bankrolls anti-Israel terrorist groups and other extremists intent on destabilizing the Middle East.
The U.S. has threatened Iran with military action if Iran approaches the capacity to develop nuclear weapons.
But despite all the differences, the U.S. and Iran are more engaged diplomatically at this moment than in years.
After a breakthrough interim agreement last year, the U.S., Iran and other nations are hoping to wrap up a deal within the next month that would curb Iran’s nuclear program. Progress on nuclear talks is leading American officials to explore whether Iran can be a useful partner on interests long viewed as shared, such as fighting Sunni extremism and ensuring stability of Iraq.
Iran, like the Iraqi government, is Shiite. The insurgent group leading the assault in Iraq, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, is Sunni.
But there is worry that Iran is trying to leverage its helpfulness on Iraq into better terms in the nuclear negotiations.
“I would be skeptical that cooperating with Iran — particularly sharing sensitive intelligence information — would be in our overall interest,” Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., the Senate minority leader, told The Associated Press.
“In fact, it’s hard for me to conceive of any level of Iranian cooperation that doesn’t lead to future demands for concessions on the nuclear program, or foment the return of Shia militias and terrorist groups, which is harmful to resolving the sectarian disputes within Iraq,” McConnell said. “Remember, the Iranians are working aggressively to keep Assad in power in Syria.”
His concern was highlighted by the comments this past week by Mohammad Nahavandian, chief of staff to Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani.
The aide suggested nuclear talks and Iraq’s crisis were connected. The State Department rejected any linkage.
Secretary of State John Kerry, heading to the Mideast this weekend to discuss Iraq’s stability, has fueled talk about U.S.-Iranian cooperation. He said early last week that the Obama administration was open to discussions with Tehran if the Iranians help end the violence in Iraq and restore confidence in the Baghdad government.
American and Iranian diplomats talked about Iraq on the sidelines of nuclear negotiations in Vienna in recent days. U.S. officials have rejected military cooperation with Iran and thus far, legislative aides said, the understanding in Congress is that no intelligence-sharing mechanism with Tehran has been finalized.
But the comments had officials and lawmakers in Washington and the Middle East abuzz.
At a breakfast this past week with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Kerry steered away from questions about how specifically the U.S. might cooperate with Tehran, according to aides, who weren’t authorized to speak about private meetings and demanded anonymity.
It’s the fog of diplomacy.
- Headline News
U.S.: Russia fired rockets into Ukraine
Stepping up pressure on Moscow, the U.S. on Sunday released satellite images it says show that rockets have been fired from Russia into neighboring eastern Ukraine and that heavy artillery for separatists has crossed the border.
The images, which came from the U.S. Director of National Intelligence and could not be independently verified by The Associated Press, show blast marks where rockets were launched and craters where they landed. Officials said the images show heavy weapons fired between July 21 and July 26 — after the July 17 downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17.
Plan to simplify health renewals may backfire
If you have health insurance on your job, you probably don’t give much thought to each year’s renewal. But make the same assumption in one of the new health law plans, and it could lead to costly surprises.
Insurance exchange customers who opt for convenience by automatically renewing their coverage for 2015 are likely to receive dated and inaccurate financial aid amounts from the government, say industry officials, advocates and other experts.
If those amounts are too low, consumers could get sticker shock over their new premiums. Too high, and they’ll owe the tax man later.
W.Va. Judge: WVU, IMG College deal is OK
A judge has denied a motion by West Virginia Radio Corp. to toss the media rights contract between West Virginia University and IMG College.
Media outlets report Monongalia County business court circuit judge Thomas Evans set aside a motion for summary judgment against WVU and others.
West Virginia Radio was seeking to void any contract entered by WVU and IMG. West Virginia Radio unsuccessfully bid on the contract, then filed a motion for summary judgment in February, claiming school officials violated state procurement laws.
Evans ruled the code cited by the plaintiffs didn’t apply to the $86.5 million, 12-year agreement reached last year.
Powerful storms rip through eastern U.S.
Powerful storms raking across several states in the eastern U.S. on Sunday have destroyed at least 10 homes in Tennessee, and there were no immediate reports of any deaths or injuries, authorities said.
Lawmakers say Obama too aloof with Congress
President Barack Obama’s request for billions of dollars to deal with migrant children streaming across the border set off Democrats and Republicans. Lawmakers in both parties complained that the White House — six years in — still doesn’t get it when it comes to working with Congress.
U.S. faces intelligence hurdles in downing of airliner
A series of unanswered questions about the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 shows the limits of U.S. intelligence gathering even when it is intensely focused, as it has been in Ukraine since Russia seized Crimea in March.
House approves bill to boost child tax credit for some
More families with higher incomes could claim the popular child tax credit under a bill that won approval Friday in the House. But in a dispute that divides Republicans and Democrats, millions of the poorest low-income families would still lose the credit in 2018, when enhancements championed by President Barack Obama are set to expire.
U.S.: Russia firing across border into Ukraine
Russia is launching artillery attacks from its soil on Ukrainian troops and preparing to move heavier weaponry across the border, the U.S. and Ukraine charged Friday in what appeared to be an ominous escalation of the crisis.
Russia accused Washington of lying and charged Ukraine with firing across the border on a Russian village. It also toughened its economic measures against Ukraine by banning dairy imports.
U.N. school in Gaza in cross-fire; 15 killed
A U.N. school in Gaza crowded with hundreds of Palestinians seeking refuge from fierce fighting came under fire Thursday, killing at least 15 civilians and leaving a sad tableau of blood-spattered pillows, blankets and children’s clothing scattered in the courtyard.
Jet with 116 on board crashes in Mali
An Air Algerie jetliner carrying 116 people crashed Thursday in a rainstorm over restive Mali, and its wreckage was found near the border of neighboring Burkina Faso — the third major international aviation disaster in a week.
- More Headline News Headlines
- U.S.: Russia fired rockets into Ukraine