Talking with the Axis of Evil

July 17, 2008

george-w-bush.jpg Is the United States going soft on Iran?

 In the past President George W. Bush accused Tehran of belonging to an “axis of evil”, compared negotiations with its president to appeasing Adolf Hitler, and warned that a nuclear-armed Iran would lead to World War Three.

His administration refused to join international talks on Iran’s nuclear programme, which it suspects could be used to produce a nuclear bomb, unless Tehran halted enriching uranium. It pointedly declined to rule out military action if a diplomatic solution was not found.

Now, the United States is sending one of its top diplomats — along with representatives from other major powers — to talks in Geneva on Saturday with Iran to hear its response to an offer of financial and diplomatic incentives if Iran gives up its sensitive nuclear work.

And Britain’s Guardian newspaper says Washington will announce in the next month that it plans to establish a diplomatic present in Tehran for the first time in 30 years — a move the newspaper describes as a “remarkable turnaround in policy by President George Bush”.

U.S. officials say the decision to send senior diplomat William Burns to the Geneva talks sends a strong signal that the United States is committed to diplomacy, adding that Washington will only join full-blown negotiations if uranium enrichment stops.

 One hawkish former U.S. administration official sees it differently. “This is, and the evidence is plain for all to see, the total intellectual collapse of the Bush administration,” former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton told Reuters. 

He wrote in Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal: “There was a time when the Bush administration might itself have seriously considered using force, but all public signs are that such a moment has passed.”

He urges Washington to consider what cooperation it “will extend to Israel before, during and after a strike on Iran” but he doesn’t seem to think the U.S. administration is listening.


So is Washington preparing for a deal instead of war?

This might explain a flurry of regional diplomacy.

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki heads for Turkey, shortly after meetings in Ankara by President George W. Bush’s National Security Adviser, Stephen Hadley.
Burns will attend the Geneva meeting and then there’s the Guardian report.

Any deal has a logic that could benefit both sides. Analysts often point out overlapping regional interests. The two countries, say analysts, ultimately want a stable Iraq, share a loathing for the radical Sunni Taliban in Afghanistan and (despite Iran’s recent buddying up) are equally distrustful of Russia. (It’s no accident that Iran under the shah was Washington’s closest Middle East ally — bar Israel.)

And yet — there always seems to one of those — the wheels of this happy bandwagon could come off, and quickly.

Much hinges on what happens in Geneva when Iranian chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili sits down for talks with the European Union’s Javier Solana, the representative of world powers in Saturday’s Geneva talks. Solana will want to see signs that Iran is ready to consider suspending uranium enrichment, a process Tehran has so far refused to halt.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, whose opinion ultimately holds sway in Iran, spoke on Wednesday of Iran’s “red lines” — not a very promising statement on the face of it.

Overlapping interests, say analysts, may not be enough for Iran to rehabilitate ties with the “Great Satan”. Interests have overlapped for the past 30 years or so but the hostility has continued. (President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has, however, said Iran would consider any overture to open an interests section).

And then, say some Western diplomats, there’s Israel. Will it take matters into its own hands after vowing not to let Iran get The Bomb? Diplomats say it might.

So there may be a shift in Washington. Some at least have detected it. Inside Iran, there has been an unusually public debate on how to handle the nuclear file even if there have also been some fairly uncompromising comments.

But are we really close to a breakthrough? And how long is Israel ready to wait? There’s still plenty to debate.


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The double standard that is the theme of the US administration’s incompetent policy in the middle east for a long time now is one of the main reasons why the region is in its current state of turmoil, and its about time that administration decided on a serious attempt at diplomacy instead of inflammatory methods of provocation such as waving a threat of military actions in connivance with a hostile state that actually already HAS a nuclear arsenal – Israel – and the way the US bungles along in that part of the world is laughable if it wasn’t for the bloodbath, chaos ,destruction and genocide that resulted from it and the horrific scenario that loomed for months when Bush threatened to worsen the crisis further singlehandedly by making vague threats of another military debacle, as if Iraq was not enough.
The weary world can now only hope that a new approach is being considered towards laying issues with Iran to rest fairly … Even if what die-hard warhawk sceptics say may be true and the Iranian government would not cooperate with the efforts, we owe it to the world to try and give peace and dialogue a chance, especially since three decades of hostility and proxy conflicts did nothing.

Posted by Bill | Report as abusive

i agree with my cowriter Bill!this is the first time when US actual administration trys to use diplomacy and not just external policy!
I think that US does this beacause they are obligated ! other countrys do it , so they are not alone there!but they do fell like they just changed the hole external policy!But it’s not from them!We forget that this negocitaion are made in Geneva, and the US interests were represented in Iran by Swiss diplomats!

Posted by Burca Alice Larisa | Report as abusive

I’m not that surprised people don’t see what this effort at diplomicy with Iran really is – everyone is so busy promoting their own personal agendas.

The effort of diplomicy with Iran was never expected to achive anything.
It is mearly a way of the U.S. saying to the world that diplomacy was tried first and didn’t work, after a thirty year silence.
This is more of a sign of impending war then anything we have yet seen.

Posted by Steve | Report as abusive