Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Talking to Tehran

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Well, it's a start:

The United States and Iran held their first official high-level, face-to-face talks in almost 30 years Monday to discuss the deteriorating security situation in Iraq, and officials emerged generally upbeat about the renewed dialogue, suggesting additional meetings were likely.

In briefings to reporters afterward, the chief negotiators -- U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan C. Crocker and Iran's ambassador to Baghdad, Hassan Kazemi Qomi -- said the talks focused solely on Iraq and did not stray into the contentious areas of Iran's nuclear program or the recent detentions of four Iranian American citizens by Tehran.

But there's the glaring problem: How is it possible to talk about Iraq without addressing Iran's nuclear program or U.S.-Iran relations more generally? Is it possible that the U.S. and Iran will find common ground with respect to Iraq? One wonders. As Yglesias puts it, "the Iranians are going to seek to thwart our goals," because "our goals in the Middle East include overthrowing the [Iranian] regime".

And so Cernig may be right with his skepticism: "Talking is almost always vastly preferable to bombing. However, I've a nasty feeling that these talks will, eventually, go nowhere -- and will then be held up as evidence of Iran's lack of amenability to diplomacy by pro-war Bush administration members and their enablers."

Somewhere, perhaps in some underground lair, Dick Cheney is smirking.

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