TEHRAN, Iran – Banners from a labor group preparing for local elections declare: "no slogans, action." That also could be the motto for Iran's new approach to the Iraq showdown.
Iranian diplomats and policy-makers are suddenly taking a more active role with the West, raising their concerns about how a U.S.-led war to topple Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein could reorder politics in the region.
Iran still strongly opposes any attack without U.N. backing and promotes a self-described "active neutrality" toward its neighbor and former wartime enemy.
But there's a growing impression that Washington's unwavering military pressure on Saddam has pushed Iran into an uncomfortable corner: Either become more engaged with the West on post-Saddam planning or risk being deemed politically irrelevant.
"We are prepared for any eventuality and all possibilities in Iraq whether the current regime remains in power or is replaced with others," said government spokesman Abdollah Ramezanzadeh. "We will behave in a way that those in power will not seek animosity with Iran."
A painful lesson was learned in Afghanistan, experts say.
Iran's ruling clerics decided they could not be a full partner in the U.S.-led coalition even though Iran had been backing anti-Taliban forces for years and has deep cultural links to parts of Afghanistan. It left Iran generally excluded from the inner circle of nations reshaping Afghanistan.
A similar fate in a possible post-Saddam Iraq could leave Iran with little regional leverage and encircled by U.S.-aligned nations.
But Iran appears willing to break its traditionally passive diplomacy and press its case.
Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi was in London on Thursday, holding talks on Iraq with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, President Bush's top international ally against Baghdad.
"I think that more time should be given to the (U.N.) inspectors to complete their jobs, and Saddam's regime should be urged more fully to comply with the resolutions," Kharrazi said.
Kharrazi -- seasoned in Western diplomacy as a longtime U.N. envoy -- next goes to Munich, Germany, on Friday for an international security conference that Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld is expected to attend, as are other top NATO officials.
The Iranian delegation will not meet with the Americans in Munich, Ramezanzadeh said Wednesday.
"We will attend to make our views known to everybody there and will try to even influence the views there," he said.
Last month, Iran for the first time allowed a meeting of main Iraqi opposition groups in Tehran. The list included factions backed by Washington.
Iran is the main patron for a Shiite Muslim Iraqi opposition group that could have a major voice in a post-Saddam leadership.
Stability of oil prices is another key worry for Iran, which depends on its OPEC revenue to keep its economy from a nose dive. Iran fears giving Washington a direct role in Iraq's oil output could lead to overproduction and a fall in prices.
Finally, Iran could feel deep vindication in helping bring a new order to Iraq.
The West gave arms and aid to Saddam during a 1980-88 war in which Iranian troops were hit with chemical weapons. The conflict claimed 1 million lives from both sides.
"Iran does not want another Afghanistan and be left out of the post-Saddam equation," said Ehsan Ahrari, a regional political analyst based in Norfolk, Va. "The trouble is they don't know how to deal with the hyper-power of the United States."
Washington broke relations with Iran after the 1979 Islamic Revolution that led to a 444-day hostage siege at the former U.S. Embassy. Overtures for better ties were dashed last year by Bush's declaration that Iran, Iraq and North Korea constitute an "axis of evil."
Kazem Jalali, a member of the Iranian parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, said Iran should make its anti-war position heard but not remain prisoner to its views if the United Nations authorizes an attack.
"If war breaks out, the best position for Iran would be to support the U.N. Security Council decisions and go along with the international consensus," he said.