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Thursday, July 17, 2008


Talking to Iran: the cover story

The Washington Post reports:
President Bush's decision to shift policy and send a senior U.S. envoy to nuclear talks with Iran this weekend was made after increasing signs that Iran was open to possible negotiations and that international sanctions were having an impact on the Islamic republic, U.S. officials said yesterday.
Really? Let's start with the second. Here's the "evidence":
U.S. officials said they felt comfortable making this shift because there are increasing signs that sanctions are beginning to harm Tehran, such as the decision last week by France energy giant Total SA to abandon plans to develop a liquefied natural gas project in Iran.
OK, what that shows is that U.S. pressure for sanctions has had an effect on U.S. allies. It might or might not "harm Iran" in the long term, but it says nothing about any changes in attitude in Iran which might signal an improved position for negotiation.

But the first claim ("increasing signs that Iran was open to possible negotiations") is even more problematic. The West tries to imagine, or create, a split between President Ahmadinejad and Supreme Leader Khamenei. Why, I don't know, since they universally claim that only Khamenei's opinion counts (something I don't believe), so if that's true, they shouldn't even bother listening to what Ahmadinejad says. But let's accept that idea and look at what Khamenei had to say just yesterday:

The Leader of the Islamic Revolution says that the West must respect Iran's 'red lines' before entering nuclear talks with Tehran.

Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei said Wednesday that Tehran is ready for negotiations with world powers as long as no one threatens Iran over its nuclear program.

"We have made clear our stance and red lines on the nuclear issue. Our position on the matter should be respected," the Leader said.
It is true that Khamenei, just like Ahmadinejad, says Iran is "ready for negotiations." But since he's ruled out the thing the U.S. really wants to negotiate over, it becomes clear that the U.S. claims of meeting with Iran because of changes in Iran's attitude, claims the press is happy to parrot, are completely bogus. No, it's changes in the U.S.' attitude, and recognition, if only a glimmer, of reality, that brings about this change. But it wouldn't do to admit that in public, hence the cover story.

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