June 18, 2006

STILL PAYING FOR THE EMBASSY TAKEOVER:

In 2003, U.S. Spurned Iran's Offer of Dialogue: Some Officials Lament Lost Opportunity (Glenn Kessler, June 18, 2006, Washington Post)

Just after the lightning takeover of Baghdad by U.S. forces three years ago, an unusual two-page document spewed out of a fax machine at the Near East bureau of the State Department. It was a proposal from Iran for a broad dialogue with the United States, and the fax suggested everything was on the table -- including full cooperation on nuclear programs, acceptance of Israel and the termination of Iranian support for Palestinian militant groups.

But top Bush administration officials, convinced the Iranian government was on the verge of collapse, belittled the initiative. Instead, they formally complained to the Swiss ambassador who had sent the fax with a cover letter certifying it as a genuine proposal supported by key power centers in Iran, former administration officials said.

Last month, the Bush administration abruptly shifted policy and agreed to join talks previously led by European countries over Iran's nuclear program. But several former administration officials say the United States missed an opportunity in 2003 at a time when American strength seemed at its height -- and Iran did not have a functioning nuclear program or a gusher of oil revenue from soaring energy demand.


His mishandling of Iran is a big entry on the debit side of George W. Bush's ledger, as it's been for nearly every American president.

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 18, 2006 5:30 PM
Comments

Between the lines there's more than meets the eye.

Posted by: ghostcat at June 18, 2006 5:49 PM

"Top administration officials" is likely State under Colin Powell. Otherwise the WP would be naming names.

Posted by: Gideon at June 18, 2006 6:04 PM

Nixon can't go to China without some political backing. Who would support Bush going to Iran? The public face of the Right has shown itself to be prone to panic in the face of surprises, witness the ports deal and immigration. I think Bush has done as well as can be expected, given the tools at hand.

Posted by: Robert Mitchell Jr. at June 18, 2006 6:25 PM

The Right was apoplectic when Nixon went--that's the point of the saying.

Posted by: oj at June 18, 2006 6:33 PM

Yes, but he had the support of the Left. Bush is not so blessed.

Posted by: Robert Mitchell Jr. at June 18, 2006 6:36 PM

Nixon had the support of the Left? In Cloud-Cuckoo Land.

Posted by: oj at June 18, 2006 6:49 PM

On that issue. Can you point out any serious objection to formal ties to Communist China on the Left? It looked to me like the Left loved the idea of working with the Communist regimes.

Posted by: Robert Mitchell Jr. at June 18, 2006 7:03 PM

You're both right, as it happens. The Left never supported Nixon/Kissinger. But the Left did support overtures to China. Only they can reconcile the inconsistency.

Posted by: ghostcat at June 18, 2006 7:50 PM

What inconsistency? In politics, you don't have friends or enemies, you have goals. The Democrats haven't always been insane.....

Posted by: Robert Mitchell Jr. at June 18, 2006 8:00 PM

"top Bush administration officials, convinced the Iranian government was on the verge of collapse.."

Sounds like the considered judgment of a blogger I read.

Posted by: Rick T. at June 18, 2006 8:54 PM

Why would they collapse? With a few minor reforms they're a full liberal democracy.

Posted by: oj at June 18, 2006 9:06 PM

"Some"

Posted by: Sandy P at June 18, 2006 9:07 PM

Exactly, so they denounced Nixon for a publicity stunt.

Posted by: oj at June 18, 2006 9:11 PM

The more interesting question is not why we declined to play 3 years ago, but why we chose to play recently. It might just be Condi prevailing over Rummy, but I doubt it. Something happened in theater.

Posted by: ghostcat at June 18, 2006 9:59 PM

Presuming some nugget of this story is true, in 2003 Khatami was still President but had proven to be a bust. The mullahs were squeezing the populace harder than they had in 1997/8. Why would the US respond then? After all, Clinton had all but kissed the hem of Khatami's robe in prior years, and nothing happened.

Of course, this may just be another volley in the "who lost Iran" game.

OJ is right that the political establishment does not know what to do with Iran. The problem is complicated now because Ahmadinejad is a messianic moonbat who might just outflank the mullahs, if he can stay alive long enough.

America does not do well with leaders like Ahmadinejad, who is a bit like Mao, a bit like Castro, a bit like Pol Pot, and a bit like Hitler.

Posted by: jim hamlen at June 18, 2006 10:42 PM

Yes, the Administration outwitted itself, refusing to negotiate when the Reformers were in control and then telling Iranians to sit out the vote. So now they're stuck with a nut and have to negotiate.

Posted by: oj at June 18, 2006 10:45 PM

The "reformers" were never in control.

Posted by: jim hamlen at June 18, 2006 11:30 PM

No, but the Reformers were. Cutting a deal would have helped the genuine reformers.

Posted by: oj at June 18, 2006 11:35 PM

Sometimes you're a hoot - Khatami was in control, but Ahmadinejad just can't be.

Or is that the other way around? Perhaps you should take a few deep breaths and talk to some Persians.

Remember, Clinton tried to 'deal' with Khatami - it went nowhere. Give up.

Now, the Iranians could have just tried to buy him off, like the Chinese did. It might have worked better.

Posted by: jim hamlen at June 19, 2006 12:06 AM

Ahmedinejad is exactly as much in control as Khatami was, which is not ultimate control. The overtures come from Ayatollah Khamenei, not from the presidents.

Clinton couldn't cut a deal because only Nixon can go to China, not McGovern.

Posted by: oj at June 19, 2006 12:13 AM

Clinton couldn't cut a deal because he didn't know what the h*** he was doing.

Posted by: ratbert at June 19, 2006 12:35 AM

You seem all to be forgetting that the seizure of the embassy was an act of war and that Iran has been contributing to the insurgency in Iraq, another act of war.

Posted by: jd watson [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 19, 2006 6:16 AM

As were the coup we staged and shooting down their passenger jet.

Posted by: oj at June 19, 2006 6:35 AM

OJ: So you're saying we and South Korea could've gone to war with the USSR when they shot down KAL007?

Posted by: tps at June 19, 2006 8:29 AM

Of course we should have.

Posted by: oj at June 19, 2006 8:32 AM

"My fellow Americans, I'm pleased to tell you today that I've signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes."

And people call me bloodthirsty....

Posted by: tps at June 19, 2006 10:56 AM

The coup was successful, so not a casus belli. Shooting down their plane was a mistake, but the Iranians were welcome to declare war on us if they wanted to.

Posted by: David Cohen at June 19, 2006 5:49 PM

Bingo!

Posted by: oj at June 19, 2006 5:54 PM
« THE KEN LAY LEFT: | Main | PLUG & GO: »