GAMESMANSHIP….A week ago, in a reversal of its longtime policy, the Bush administration agreed to hold face-to-face talks with Iran. This decision didn’t go over well with conservatives, who believe that negotiation is a sign of weakness, and likely didn’t go over well with hardliners within the administration for the same reason.
What to do? Answer: Prove that you’re still as tough as you ever were. Perhaps this is why we’ve seen the following in the past few days:
An obviously planted story about plans to respond strongly to any Iranian provocation in Iraq this summer.
A leak to ABC News about a covert program to destabilize the Iranian regime.
The start of a major naval exercise in the Persian Gulf. Mustafa Alani of the Dubai-based Gulf Research Center made the connection plain: “The Americans are sending a message to Iran that they are not coming to the negotiating table weak, but with their military at Tehran’s doorstep.”
These actions are probably designed both to put the Iranians on notice and to quell conservative disquiet at home. For their part, the Iranians may be engaged in the same kind of gamesmanship, and with the same two audiences in mind. Perhaps that explains their rash of recent jailings of Iranian-Americans?
Something to think about. I promise not to make it into a hobby horse. But it might explain some otherwise mysterious actions.