White House caught out over envoy's mission to Iran
One of the country’s most respected commentators on Russia, the EU and the US, Mary Dejevsky has worked as a foreign correspondent all over the world, including Washington, Paris and Moscow. She is now the chief editorial writer and a columnist at The Independent and regularly appears on radio and television. She is an Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Buckingham.
Wednesday 31 December 1997
The reports that President Bill Clinton had sent Senator Tom Lantos as a special envoy coincided with the opening of the first natural gas pipeline between the former Soviet republic of Turkmenistan and Iran. This event illustrates the difficulties faced by the United States if it persists in trying to isolate Iran.
There had been rumours in Washington of unofficial contacts between the US and Iran since before Iran's new president, Mohammad Khatami, extended his olive branch earlier this month, expressing respect for the "great people of the United States". Washington had denied there had recently been unofficial contacts between US and Iranian officials in Europe.
This week's reports were more substantial. The official news agency of the United Arab Emirates quoted "informed sources" as saying President Clinton had sent Senator Lantos, a Democrat from California, to Iran to assess whether hints of changes in Iranian foreign policy were genuine.
The senator's office was initially uncommunicative and the White House denied the report. But the wording of the denial - that the President "has no plans to send a special envoy to Iran" left questions. Had an envoy already been sent? Having "no plans" did not preclude the possibility. If tentative diplomatic moves were to be made, then the quiet dispatch of a presidential envoy when the Western world was otherwise engaged would be one way to do it.
The State Department, which has been zealous in implementing the policy of "dual containment", which is designed to isolate Iran and Iraq simultaneously, was more forthcoming. It said Mr Lantos was considering a trip to Iran and had broached the subject with the White House and the State Department, but: "It's something that we would discourage."
Mr Lantos himself was said to be spending the holiday in his California district, but officials said they understood he had not yet received an Iranian visa. This suggested that he had applied for a visa and that a trip was in the offing. The question is whether unintended publicity might cause it to be called off.
The task of keeping both Iran and Iraq equally isolated has proved increasingly difficult, as other countries have moved to improve relations. Although the official response to President Khatami's overture was cool, Mr Clinton disclosed shortly before Christmas that the administration was discussing relations with Iran.
US hesitation appears to reflect both concern not to be deceived into warming relations prematurely but also conflicting views about whether President Khatami either wants, or can soften, Iranian policy.
- 3 Oil tanker with $100 million cargo goes missing off Texas coast
- 4 George Galloway attacked on Notting Hill street by man 'shouting about the holocaust'
Keira Knightley topless: Usually conservative actress does own take on #Freethenipple campaign for Interview Magazine
YouTube video posted by Isis militants shows 'execution of 250 Syrian soldiers'
Oil tanker with $100 million cargo goes missing off Texas coast
George Galloway attacked on Notting Hill street by man 'shouting about the holocaust'
Brother and sister, Christopher Buckner and Timothy Savoy, arrested for 'committing incest after watching 'The Notebook''
Robin Williams Emmys tribute led by Billy Crystal criticised for including 'racist' joke about Muslim woman
The Rotherham child abuse scandal is a tale of apologists, misogyny and double standards
Scottish independence TV debate: Pumped-up Alex Salmond bounces back in bruising second round against Alistair Darling
Do you realise just how foolish the UK looks?
Ukip Douglas Carswell defection: Tory MP jumps ship to join Nigel Farage
When elitism grips the top of British society to this extent, there is only one answer: abolish private schools
- < Previous
- Next >
£45000 - £69999 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Algo-Develo...
£60000 - £70000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Senior Data Sc...
£50000 - £80000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: Data Sci...
£350 - £400 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Cent...