US, Iran keen to keep nuclear, IS fight separate

Politics Materials 9 December 2014 13:01 (UTC +04:00)

Baku, Azerbaijan, Dec. 9

By Dalga Khatinoglu, Trend:

Iran's Foreign Ministry confirmed the country's air strike on Islamic State targets in early December, while a member of the National Security and Foreign Policy Commission lauded Tehran's interest in joining any coalition targeting the so-called Islamic State, with the caveat that it be led by Syria or Iraq.

However, can the common interest of the United States and Iran in fighting the IS lead to a rapprochement in the nuclear dispute?

Richard Betts an adjunct senior fellow for national security studies at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) told Trend on Dec.9 that the nuclear negotiations (between Iran and the U.S.) and the issue of opposition to the Islamic State should not be connected. The USA and Iran have parallel interests in defeating the Islamic State, but we do not have parallel interests on the nuclear question."

Ebrahim Rahimpour, deputy foreign minister of Iran, confirmed during an interview to the British Guardian newspaper on Dec.7 that Iran conducted air strike over IS positions in Iraq in early December.

"We did not have any coordination with the Americans. We have coordinated only with the Iraqi government," he said.

Before him, Abbas Ali Mansouri, a member of the National Security and Foreign Policy Commission told Trend Agency Dec. 5 that Iran is ready to join any anti-so-called Islamic State coalition led by Syria or Iraq.

On the other hand, U.S. State Department's Persian Language Spokesperson Alan Eyre who is a member of the U.S. nuclear negotiating team in P5+1 told Trend on Dec.9 that the latest round of nuclear talks with Iran, held on Nov.24 was "really progressive."

Iran and P5+1 (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council comprising of China, France, Russia, Britain, the US Plus Germany) sealed an interim deal in Geneva on November 24, 2013 to pave the way for the full resolution of the West's decade-old dispute with Iran over the country's nuclear energy program.

The Geneva deal took effect on January 20 and expired on July 20. However the two sides agreed to extend their talks for four months till Nov. 24 to reach a permanent deal on Iran's disputed nuclear program.

During a meeting held on November 24, 2014, the sides agreed to extend the talks for a further seven months.

The U.S. Defense Department reported last week that Iranian fighter jets have attacked IS militants in eastern Iraq in recent days.

Betts believes that "It is desirable to find a way to reach agreement on the nuclear question, but that appears unlikely to happen. If failure in the nuclear negotiation occurs, that should not prevent tacit cooperation against Islamic State".

Mohammad Sahimi, a commentator on Iran's nuclear program who received a scholarship from the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran also told Trend on Dec.9 that the negotiations between Iran and 5+1 has been limited to Iran's nuclear program.

"According to Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, the U.S. tried to include Iran's missile program in the negotiations, but Iran refused. So, at least for now, the talks would be limited to the nuclear program," Sahimi who holds the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) chair in petroleum engineering at the University of Southern California (USC) said.

The U.S., Israel and some western countries are suspicious about the probable "military aspects" of Iran's nuclear program. Some western officials also have announced their concerns about Iranian missiles, which Iran claims can target Tel-Aviv.

Sahimi says that Iran's military is not a threat to the US and its allies in the Middle East. "The Pentagon's annual report on Iran's military capability has emphasized that Iran's military doctrine is defensive, and its military capabilities have been built to defend Iran's national territory. It is not built for offensive operations beyond Iran's borders".

Iranian origin expert Sahimi added that to carry a nuclear warhead by missile, a country must first have the know-how to miniaturize a nuclear bomb so that it can be fitted within the missile. "This is a very difficult problem, and there is no evidence that Iran has developed the know-how, in addition to the fact that Iran has no nuclear weapon, and there is no evidence that it wants to make one."

Dalga Khatinoglu is an expert on Iran's energy sector, head of Trend Agency's Iran news service
Follow him on @dalgakhatinoglu