March 9, 2007


U.S. and Iran may steal the show at Iraq's security meeting (Helene Cooper, March 9, 2007, International Herald Tribune)

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and a number of her top deputies, including Satterfield and the American ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, have concluded that recent American moves to pressure Iran on several issues now allow the United States to negotiate with Tehran from a position of strength, one senior administration official said. Those advocates of engagement argue that the recent ratcheting up of American rhetoric against Iran, a naval buildup in the Persian Gulf and arrests of Iranian officials in Iraq have now given American officials a better hand to play at the bargaining table.

"The United States is in a position now where I think we send a very strong message to the Iranians through the president's decision to send the carrier strike group into the gulf, through the fact that we've picked up some of their people who have been engaged in activities to harm our soldiers and the fact that we've been shutting down the international financial system to them," Rice said Wednesday in an interview on "The Sean Hannity Show." "I think we're in a much stronger position to go to a neighbors meeting."

But some administration hard-liners, many in the office of Vice President Dick Cheney, have argued that the United States should not be seen as making concessions to Iran, and that talking is a concession, the senior administration official said.

The product of this clash of views has been a diplomatic strategy that tries to straddle both sides. "They want to be coy about it," said Kenneth M. Pollack, director of research at the Brookings Institution's Saban Center for Middle East Policy. "But are they being coy because they're really coy, or are they being coy because half of the administration doesn't want any talks, which forces the ones who do to adopt this middle position?"

They're both right. We've put ourselves and the Iranians in a position where we can undercut the hard-liners by snubbing Ahmedinejad's allies but talking to Khamenei's.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 9, 2007 10:28 AM
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