Prisoner Swap ‘Positive’ But Unlikely to Lead to US Talks
EghtesadOnline: The recent prisoner swap between Iran and the United States could be seen as a "positive" signal, but is unlikely to lead to direct bilateral talks as Tehran-Washington political ties are "complicated" in nature, a political analyst says.
"It cannot be denied that the prisoner exchange between Iran and the United States can be interpreted as a positive political and diplomatic signal, especially because it was unprecedented under the presidency of Donald Trump. However, it should also be noted that the prisoner swap took place on humanitarian and legal grounds, not as a result of a complicated political and diplomatic process," Amir Ali Abolfath told the Iranian Diplomacy website in a recent interview.
On Dec. 7, the US and Iran each freed a prisoner in a rare act of cooperation between two longtime foes whose relations have worsened since Trump took office, unilaterally withdrew his country from the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and six world powers, including the US, and reimposed sweeping sanctions on the OPEC producer.
Iran released Xiyue Wang, a US citizen who had been held for three years on spying charges, while the United States freed Iranian Masoud Soleimani. He had been facing charges of violating US sanctions against Tehran, according to Financial Tribune.
Switzerland, which represents US interests in Iran, facilitated the swap.
Trump thanked Iran on Twitter for what he called a "very fair negotiation" that led to the exchange. He said it showed America and Iran "can make a deal together".
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Iran is ready for a full prisoner exchange with the US, tweeting, "The ball is in the US' court."
Abolfath maintains that the latest development cannot be called an "extraordinary" event because prisoner exchange has been common throughout history, even between warring states.
He says another issue that should be taken into consideration is that, according to both Iranian and US officials, the swap was negotiated indirectly.
"So there is not much room for optimism that the recent exchange of prisoners between Iran and the United States will pave the way for reaching a political understanding on other issues, including the nuclear agreement."
In other words, there is not much hope that they will hold talks in the "classic" sense of the word at a negotiating table to resolve their differences, the expert said.
Dialogue a ‘Taboo’
On whether the prisoner swap could signify an end to the "taboo" of Iran-US dialogue, Abolfath said, "I think dialogue with the United States cannot be considered a political taboo. It all depends on when, where, under what political and diplomatic circumstances, on what issues and in return for what concessions the dialogue would take place."
Despite the Leader's ban on talks with the current US administration and the stance of President Hassan Rouhani's administration suggest that talks with US could be possible if it ends its hostile policy toward Iran, agrees to win-win negotiations and remains committed to any potential agreement, he added.