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US and Iran have more indirect talks in Oman to de-escalate tensions

May 20, 2024 at 3:18 pm

President Biden’s senior Middle East adviser Brett McGurk in the Bahraini capital Manama on November 21, 2021 [MAZEN MAHDI/AFP via Getty Images]

Senior US and Iranian officials have held indirect talks in Oman in the past week, aiming to de-escalate regional tensions, according to a report on Friday by Axios. This marked the first round of discussions between the two countries since January.

The US delegation included Brett McGurk, President Joe Biden’s top Middle East adviser, and Abram Paley, the acting US envoy for Iran. Omani officials mediated the talks, with US and Iranian representatives reportedly in separate rooms.

The Iranian mission to the UN has confirmed that indirect talks between the US and Iran in the sultanate are an “ongoing process.” According to representatives from the mission, the discussions are part of a series that “are neither the first nor will they be the last.”

The discussions occurred just over a month after Iran launched Operation Truthful Promise, a retaliatory missile and drone assault on Israel for the killing of Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) commander General Mohammad Reza Zahedi in an air strike on Iran’s consulate in Damascus.

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Iran’s attack, involving over 300 missiles and drones, was unprecedented in its directness but was mostly countered by a joint defence effort from Israel, the US, and several European and Arab allies, including Jordan.

The talks focused on reducing attacks by Iran’s allies in the region, which have intensified in solidarity with the Palestinian resistance since the Israeli war against Gaza began in October.

US officials also addressed concerns about Tehran’s nuclear programme, emphasising the need to prevent escalation. State Department Deputy Spokesman Vedant Patel has reiterated that Washington does not believe that the Islamic Republic is currently working on a testable nuclear device.

The Biden administration aims to prevent the Gaza war from escalating into a regional war, leveraging diplomacy and strategic deterrence. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan highlighted the ongoing efforts to protect regional stability and prevent an all-out war, with further discussions expected in Saudi Arabia and Israel.

In a press conference last week, Sullivan said that, “The threat posed by Iran and its proxies to Israel, to regional stability and to American interests is clear.”

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