Talking to Iran

TALKING TO IRAN….Well, this is interesting:

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has written a letter to President Bush, a spokesman for Iran’s hard-line government said Monday. The letter proposed “new solutions for getting out of international problems and the current fragile situation in the world,” government spokesman Gholam Hossein Elham told a news conference in Tehran, but he declined to elaborate on the contents.

….Iran’s foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, delivered the letter on Monday to the Switzerland’s ambassador in Tehran.

….The agreement to direct talks about Iran was endorsed by the cleric who holds supreme power in Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and it is extremely unlikely that Ahmadinejad would send a letter to Bush without Khamenei’s permission as well.

Ahmadinejad has been quite chatty lately, hasn’t he? A few weeks ago he proposed talks about Iraq and now there’s this. The contents of the letter haven’t been disclosed, but the New York Times reports that the text of the letter will be released after the United States has received it.

So what happens now? The usual response, if talks are unwelcome, is to demand some kind of obviously unacceptable precondition for the proposed meeting. This forces the other country to make concessions before negotiations have begun, and since no one is stupid enough to do that, it derails the talks nicely.

But I guess the interesting question is whether the Bush administration wants to talk with Iran. We know they didn’t want to three years ago, and we also know that the recently proposed talks about Iraq haven’t gotten anywhere, but maybe it’s different this time. After all, they aren’t quite on top of the world the way they thought they were in 2003, and there is a midterm election coming up. It’s just barely possible that if Bush thinks talks could make some kind of progress in the next few months that it might help his chances in November.

But probably not. The Bushies are far more likely to view the Iranian offer as either a trick or a sign of weakness, and the smart money says the Iranians get turned down. Besides, there’s a slim chance the talks might succeed, and what happens to our plans to bomb them back into the stone age then?

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