Here’s a strange one from the Iranian Fars news agency, reporting on the visit to Tehran at the weekend of Poland’s deputy foreign minister, Jacek Naider. He met with the Iranian foreign minister, then with his counterpart:
The Polish official […] held talks with Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister for European Affairs Mehdi Safari in which he said Iran's role in Afghanistan and Iraq is positive and constructive.
Um...If Naider did say that - and a call to the Foreign Ministry in Warsaw today seemed to indicate that he did: or, at least, they found nothing strange in the remark - then I wonder what they make of that in Washington, which constantly accuses Tehran of funding the Shia militants that have given the US so much trouble since they invaded Iraq in 2003.
And Afghanistan? Nobody would suggest that Iranians support the Taliban. In fact, Iran has long been disgusted by Pakistan’s kid gloves approach to them, both when they were in power in Afghanistan and since they took to the mountains after the US invaded with the help of the Northern Alliance.
But Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad - the man, lest we not forget, whose presence at a recent UN conference was the official reason why Poland refused to go to the anti-racism shindig - paid a visit to Kabul last week. He said the problems in Afghanistan were caused by foreign “colonial forces” who had destabilised the region. One of those foreign forces is, of course, Poland.
So the current Polish love-in with Iran is rather odd. But maybe not.
Warsaw signed a preliminary deal with the Tehran government last year to gain access to Iran’s rich gas and oil deposits. Iran could be part of the Polish government’s long term plan to wean itself off its dependency on Russian gas.
The US would not take too kindly to any significant trade between Poland and Iran, however - as long as Tehran pursues its nuclear ambitions, be they peaceful or not.
Which brings us to the anti-missile shield, planned to be situated in Poland and the Czech Republic. The official reason for the plan, says Washington, is to protect the US’s Nato allies against attack from rogue states - meaning places like…Iran!
Whatever is going on here - diplomacy is a strange art at the best of times, but this story is so complicated it makes my brain hurt - there is one thing that Poland’s deputy foreign minister said in Tehran at the weekend that we can all agree on: Iran is so important to the region that solving problems without them is simply impossible.