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International Journalists Discuss U.S.-Iranian Relationship

On this week’s International Press Club, Judith Latham talks with journalists from Iran, Israel, and the Arab world about the U.S.-Iranian relationship and ways to approach the nuclear weapons threat posed by Tehran.

London-based journalist Ali-Reza Nourizadeh says he agrees with a report in Monday’s New York Times saying Iranian officials are hinting that they sped up their enrichment of uranium in the past year to put Iran in a better position to negotiate with the West. Mr. Nourizadeh says Ayatollah Khamenei believes that the United States is thinking about toppling the government of Iran but that the United States has not attacked North Korea because they already have nuclear weapons.

Said Arikat, Washington bureau chief for the Palestinian daily newspaper Al-Quds, which is published in East Jerusalem, says that – in the Arab world – Washington’s attitude toward Tehran’s nuclear program is seen as hypocritical. On the one hand, he says, Iran is subject to pressure, while Israel is permitted to develop nuclear weapons. And on the other hand, the United States led the invasion of Iraq, which had no nuclear weapons, but ignored Iran, which was known to have some sort of enrichment program.

Furthermore, Mr. Arikat says that United States needs to develop a “balanced, accelerated diplomatic dialogue” with Iran, work with the Europeans, and “open bilateral talks.” He also thinks threatening sanctions against Iran will not work.

Arieh O’Sullivan, military correspondent with the Jerusalem Post, says that the U.S. decision to deal with the problem diplomatically or militarily may depend on how advanced Iran’s nuclear program is at this point. But unfortunately, even in Israel, intelligence and defense officials cannot agree on Iran’s stage of nuclear development. But, he suggests there is another and better option – trying to bring about the overthrow of the mullahs and the establishment of a more democratic government in Iran.

However, Iranian journalist Ali-Reza Nourizadeh says that is unrealistic because it is likely that Iran will acquire nuclear weapons before there is a change of regime in Tehran. Rather he recommends that Washington talk with Ayatollah Khamenei about recognition for Iran if it stops “encouraging Palestinians to kill Israelis and encouraging Iraqis to kill American soldiers.”