Friday, March 9, 2007

Reluctant diplomats forced to sit together

Will they shake hands?
By Zvi Bar'el

James Baker and Lee Hamilton can finally permit themselves to enjoy a small smile of satisfaction. Three months after President George W. Bush sourly praised the report they wrote, but rejected their recommendation to have Iran and Syria participate in the diplomatic process in Iraq, he has been forced to swallow some of this bitter medicine. This is also a big day for Colin Powell, Bush's former secretary of state, who pushed for a direct dialogue with Iran, but was rejected by the White House conservatives. Today, when all the rivals meet in Baghdad, the cameras will probably not focus on Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Malaki, but on U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Manouchehr Mottaki, the Iranian foreign minister.

Although the purpose of this conference is to deal with Iraq, the interesting and perhaps more important part will concern the relations between Iran and the United States. "Speaking with the enemy is part of world policy now, and I believe that normalization of relations with the U.S. can be useful," explained Ali Larijani, the chair of the Iranian Supreme National Security Council, in a recent speech.
It would be ironic if the disaster in Iraq was the catalyst for an end to nearly 30 years of hostility between America and Iran. I'm not sure George Bush will want to take credit for that outcome, though.

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