June 1, 2006


Shift in U.S. Stance Shows Power of Seven-Letter Word (Glenn Kessler, June 1, 2006, Washington Post)

For six years, President Bush and his aides have dismissed the idea of talking with Iran about its nuclear programs, and until last year gave little support to European efforts to restrain Iranian nuclear activity. Attempts by former Iranian president Mohammad Khatami, a moderate, to foster a dialogue were rejected, and even back-channel moves failed to gain traction.

Now, in perhaps the biggest foreign policy shift of his presidency, Bush has approved the idea of sitting down at the table with the Iranian government -- one headed by a former student radical who denies the Holocaust. Attached to the U.S. offer was a stern condition: a verified suspension of Iran's nuclear enrichment operations. But the offer overturned a long-standing taboo, and it came from an administration stocked with officials who have made little secret of their desire to overthrow the government in Tehran.

The administration made this move at a moment of weakness.

The time to do this was immediately after 9-11, when the Iranians were asking to normalize relations, but Americans haven't been able to think straight about Iran since the hostage crisis.

US reverses 27-year Iran policy and offers talks (Julian Borger in Washington and Ian Traynor, June 1, 2006, The Guardian)

The US yesterday reversed a 27-year-old policy of isolation towards Iran and offered to join multilateral talks on its nuclear programme, on condition that Tehran suspended uranium enrichment and cooperated with UN inspectors.

The policy, which President George Bush labelled "robust diplomacy", is also contingent on Russia and China agreeing to sanctions if the offer is rejected by Iran. That deal has not been reached, and a package of sticks and carrots will be negotiated at a meeting in Vienna today of foreign ministers from the permanent five members of the UN security council - the US, Britain, France, Russia and China - and from Germany.

There have been sporadic contacts between the US and Iran over Afghanistan, but the multilateral talks Washington is offering would represent the first high-level negotiations since 1979, when US diplomats were taken hostage in Tehran. "I thought it was important for the United States to take the lead, along with our partners. And that's what you're seeing. You're seeing robust diplomacy," Mr Bush said. "I believe this problem can be solved diplomatically, and I'm going to give it every effort to do so."

Iran cautious over US talks offer (BBC, 6/01/06)
Iran's foreign minister has said his country is ready to talk to the US - but insisted that it will continue with uranium enrichment. [...]

The BBC's Frances Harrison in Tehran says it is clear that Iran is keen to hold talks with the US, but that it has always insisted on its sovereign right to produce nuclear fuel, and will not want to be seen to have been bribed into giving up those rights.

Mr Mottaki's statement is not a complete dismissal of the US offer, and leaves Tehran some room for manoeuvre, she says.

Foreign ministers from Germany and the five permanent UN Security Council members - the UK, China, France, Russia and the US - will try to finalise an offer of incentives to Iran in Vienna on Thursday.

It is thought they may offer Iran help with its civilian nuclear programme and guaranteed supplies of reactor fuel, as well as various trade advantages and security guarantees.

The package is also likely to include potential punishments if the Iranians refuse to comply.

Both Russia and China have so far opposed UN sanctions against Iran.

But analysts say the US may have done a deal with these countries behind the scenes - that if Iran rejects the US offer of talks, Moscow and Beijing will then support a tough new UN Security Council resolution.

If Iran accepts the conditions it will demonstrate that Ayatollah Khamenei is more interested in reform than weapons.

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 1, 2006 7:57 AM

The latest news is that they didn't accept any conditions.

After hearing Hewitt read the entire letter from Ahma...., I think the best thing Bush could do is draft a shorter, but just as pointed letter, and put it out to the Iranians via internet & radio free Islam (or whatever it's called these days).

For my part, I've never understood the childish gamesmanship of diplomacy.

Posted by: Bruno at June 1, 2006 9:50 AM


They will.

Posted by: oj at June 1, 2006 9:55 AM

Yes, they will, and we will soon have an agreed upon framework. Basically, take the newspapers from the 90s and cross out "North Korea" and insert "Iran". The results will be similar- up to the point the Iranians get the bomb. After that, the script changes.

Posted by: BC Monkey at June 1, 2006 1:02 PM

Seven-letter word?

Posted by: erp at June 2, 2006 9:39 AM