As there is constant debate among foreign policy officials in the West about talking directly to Iran, so too the same discussion dominates the corridors of power in the Islamic Republic: should Iran talk to America? Ayatollah Khomeini said, ‘No’, and took her diplomats hostage; after his death President Rafsanjani said, ‘Let’s talk a little’, and President Khatami said, ‘Let’s have a dialogue of civilizations.’ But both were overruled by the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei. He has never trusted America for he believes the USA wants to undermine the Islamic Republic. He does not want to talk, and most conservatives have agreed with him - until recently.
Until recently because Iranians are under intense pressure to make ends meet and government officials, who keep their ears to the ground, are worried. And so as rumors appeared that the US was ready to have one to one meetings with Iran, so too there were voices from the conservatives urging for this to happen. Voices like that of President Ahmadinejad usually referred to as a hard-liner. He has said the nuclear issue should be ‘resolved in relations between Iran and the United States.’ Or voices like that of Sadegh Larijani, from a family close to the Supreme Leader. He has said, ‘To protect the interests of the system we would negotiate with the U.S.’ In other words – Iran needs to talk to the USA to get the sanctions lifted. But for others, speaking to the USA remains an anathema. So the leader of the Basiji, a group of military volunteers, said: ‘We are not going to talk to America till the US changes its behavior.’ As senior politicians give their response to the ‘Shall we talk’ question, everyone is really waiting to see what the Supreme Leader’s answer will be. That’s the answer that matters.
For all Iranians, including the hundreds of thousands of Christians, there is no doubt that one to one talks leading to reconciliation with the US would bring immense benefit. It would chase away the threat of war, bring in investment, and stabilize many of the frayed diplomatic relationships.
It would also almost certainly lead to the Iranian government easing its hostility to evangelical Christianity. The spate of recent arrests of Christians has largely been motivated by the government’s fear the West is trying to orchestrate a ‘Velvet Revolution’. House churches have unfairly been seen as a part of this. But if there is peace with the West, there will be no fear of a ‘Velvet Revolution’, and so the hostility against Christians will ease.
• One to one talks between Iran and the USA to happen
• Ayatollah Khamenei and President Obama
• A grand entente and peace in the region