“President can improve climate for talks, but US must engage Khamenei”

“President can improve climate for talks, but US must engage Khamenei”
June 1-9, 2009
     In a brief overview of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s rise to power, Mehdi Khalaji argues that US engagement will ultimately depend on reaching Khamenei. Over his 20-year reign, Khamenei has created a vast bureaucratic power base to control Iran’s intelligence network, armed forces and foreign policy, appointing a new generation of loyal politicians—including President Ahmadinejad and Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani—to marginalize veteran officials. Khalaji concludes that the US must directly engage Khamenei without “letting him hide behind the more visible president” (Washington Institute for Near East Policy).
     However, Sue Pleming adds that a win by Mir-Hossein Mousavi in the upcoming election could facilitate Iranian engagement with the US and the P5+1, citing Mousavi’s campaign promises to continue multilateral talks on Iran’s nuclear program. Ahmadinejad has rejected such talks, and his controversial remarks on Israel and the Holocaust make diplomacy difficult. However, Nicholas Burns argues that even if future negotiations fail, the US will have more international credibility to apply further sanctions (Reuters). Trita Parsi is cited as saying that while a Mousavi win would make diplomacy easier to promote for the US, the winner of the election will have to be decisive and capable of “challenging Iranian taboos” for such diplomacy to succeed (The National).
Washington Institute for Near East Policy | Reuters | The National

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