May 31, 2007


After the talks, Iran starts talking (Kaveh L Afrasiabi, 6/01/07, Asia Times)

[I]ranian liberals and reformists have uniformly reacted positively to the Baghdad meeting. For example, Ahmad Shirzad, a leading member of the Islamic Participation Front, said the dialogue is like passing a difficult and tall obstacle. "If the level of talks increases beyond the ambassadorial level, then we can be hopeful that both sides can reach common points and arrive at agreements on them."

"Changing monologue to dialogue", reads the headline of a reformist paper, Shargh, recently resurrected after a temporary suspension. It states: "Perhaps the most important result of this talk was the pursuit of a common strategy toward resolving the major tensions in the Middle East ... It signaled the need for cooperation based on common grounds ... The continuation of these talks can itself to a large extent reduce or bracket the alternatives of war or absolute sanctions on the plate of American warmongers."

The Shargh editorial ends by optimistically hoping that "perhaps the Baghdad meeting can be a step for resolving the Lebanon crisis in the near future with the participation of Iran, France and other relevant countries".

Hardline groups, on the other hand, have been weary of the dialogue exceeding the limits set by Khamenei. Thus Lotfolah Forouzandeh, associated with the powerful Jamait-e Eesargaran, demanded that the government publish the details of the Baghdad meeting, to make sure it did not surpass the restrictions imposed by the leader.

Hussain Shariatmadari, the publisher of Kayhan and adviser to President Mahmud Ahmadinejad, has minimized the significance of the Baghdad talks by calling it "just a talk".

In contrast, conservative groups have opted for a middle line between the reformists' "optimism" and the hardliners' "guarded cynicism". They say, for example, that the talks might result in nullifying the 1979 revolution's principles reflected in the late ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's comparison of the US and Iran as wolf and sheep.

Thus Foad Sadeghi, writing on the website, interpreted the Baghdad meeting as a "turning point in the third decade of the Islamic Revolution". According to Sadeghi, the United States' willingness to engage in diplomatic interaction with Iran means that "the scenario of regime change is closed and the substitution of soft power for the hard-power approach toward Iran".

The fact that the US government disbanded the anti-Iran "Iran Syria Policy and Operation Group" right after the Baghdad meeting has been hailed as a positive development by all Iranian pundits.

Note that they can't even achieve a high enough level of repression to force a party-line.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 31, 2007 7:43 PM

They seem to have enough unanimity to continually fund and equip foreign terror groups, though.

Posted by: PapayaSF at May 31, 2007 8:13 PM

The Guard sometimes does, thus proving the point.

Posted by: oj at May 31, 2007 8:50 PM

David Ignatius flirted with insight in his most recent column on American/Iranian relations. As a group, Iranians seem to suffer from less BDS than does our own Left. That is, the right Iranians may very well conclude that Bush actually means what he's been saying for the past 4+ years: the U.S. wants a free and independent Iraq, with majority rule and minority rights. And Ryan Crocker seems up to this task of reorientation.

Posted by: ghostcat at May 31, 2007 11:55 PM

OJ, beware the trap many Kremlin watchers fell into during the Soviet years, always seeing moderates struggling in the shadows in the Kremlin. Turned out it was largely fantasy.

I have no doubt that there is much pro-US (or at least not anti-US) sentiment in Iran, I just question how much of it is in the halls of power.

Posted by: PapayaSF at June 1, 2007 12:46 AM

The USSR wasn't a multi-party democracy.

Posted by: oj at June 1, 2007 6:06 AM

Oh, regime change isn't off the table at all. There are several ways that can be accomplished and one is convincing the other party to change. It is always preferable to get what you want by making the other guy think it was his idea all along.

Posted by: Mikey [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 1, 2007 7:48 AM

They already changed with their midterm election.

Posted by: oj at June 1, 2007 9:48 AM

I'm not sure you can qualify Iran as a true multi-party democracy with all that the term implies. Technically, Wilhelmine Germany was also a multi-party democracy, but as in Iran the reformers couldn't wield true power. Instead, a powerful elite clique ran everything. Doesn't matter if that elite is comprised of Junkers or Mullahs.

Everything depends on what OJ thinks some high ranking mullah "really" wants. When we're basing judgments on personality assessments rather than on parliamentary actions, I think the Kremlinology tag is appropriate.

Posted by: Chris Durnell at June 1, 2007 10:57 AM

Carrier Battle Groups talk, B*LLsh*t walks.

Posted by: Lou Gots at June 1, 2007 12:42 PM