Definition: di'plo'ma'cy Function: noun
1: the art and practice of conducting negotiations between nations; 2: skill in handling affairs without arousing hostility; tact
Okey dokey. The Bush administration has finally caved and allowed as to how they will engage in "discussions" with Iran and Syria over the next couple of months. It is being positioned as a gathering in response to Iraq's invitation. The talks will include Britain, Russia, and others. I suppose this should be received as good news. Maybe it is. I am skeptical. I do not trust the Bushies. And is this not a seriously overdue step? Bear in mind that I am but a simple peasant in the heartland. To give you some idea of the depth and breadth of the historic game playing around this issue, consider this tidbit:
In 2004, the first meeting of the International Compact on Iraq, held in the Egyptian resort of Sharm El Sheik, opened with chatter about whether then-Secretary of State Colin L. Powell would hold direct talks with his Iranian counterpart, Kamal Kharrazi. Mr. Powell and Mr. Kharrazi did not hold a formal session. But the Egyptian hosts of the meeting made the two talk to each other, by seating them side-by-side at dinner. Afterward, an annoyed Mr. Powell said that he and Mr. Kharrazi stuck to polite diplomatic chitchat, discussing subjects like reconstruction after the earthquake in Bam, Iran, and avoiding sensitive topics like the disagreement over Iran's nuclear program.
This reminds me of a couple of boys in my third grade class who . . . oh, never mind. You get my meaning.
It is discouraging that Condoleeza Rice will be front and center for this current pretense at diplomacy. I don't care how smart she is supposed to be, how well she plays the piano or who manufactures her spiky-heeled boots. Her diplomatic skills do not seem adequate for this convergence of rogue nations'"of which the United States is now, sadly, a prime example.
The New York Times, in a droll bit of understatement, says that agreeing to these meetings marks "a shift in President Bush's avoidance of high-level contacts with the governments in Damascus and, especially, Tehran." This in spite of recommendation's from Junior's daddy's pals on the Iraq Study Group that "direct, unconditional talks . . . include Iran and Syria." Iraq has been pleading for this kind of discussion, but the Bushies have steadfastly refused until Iraq agrees to their terms about '" guess what? '" oil. The Times also reminds us that there was supposed to be a meeting one year ago between Iranian and American officials about stabilizing Iran, but it never happened.
The issue of whether the United States should talk to Iran and Syria has been a steady drumbeat in Washington for several months. When the Iraq Study Group raised it in December, it was quickly brushed off by Mr. Bush, who instead embarked on the more confrontational approach. (Surely not!)
In addition to the accusations of Iranian meddling in Iraq, the United States has also been confronting Iran over its nuclear program, which Bush administration officials say is aimed at developing nuclear weapons, a charge that Tehran denies. Vice President Dick Cheney said last week that "all options are still on the table" for Washington to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, a comment that has heightened fears that the administration is considering attacking Iran's nuclear sites.
Administration officials characterized the conflicting signals as part of a larger diplomatic strategy for dealing with Iran that verges on a high-level game of chicken. One senior administration official said that while some Bush officials have advocated looking for ways to talk to Iran and Syria, they did not want to appear to be talking to either country from a position of weakness. By ratcheting up the confrontational talk, the administration official said, the United States was in more of a driver's seat. He asked that his name not be used because he was not authorized to speak publicly about the issue.
"We became convinced that the Iranians were not taking us seriously," said Philip D. Zelikow, who until December was the top aide to Ms. Rice. "So we've done some things to get them to take us seriously, so now we can try diplomacy."
In case it escaped your attention, that's pathetic booby-babble. And I will tell you something else. The message- and framing-challenged Democrats had darn well better speak out loudly and clearly that they have forced this issue. That, left to their own devices, the Republics would still be playing fast and loose with Iran as they fairly salivate over the prospect of yet another Bush war. And make no mistake. That is still on the front burner. Only now, they will be able to say to Americans, "Well, we tried diplomacy to placate our critics and it just didn't work. Dang! We hate when that happens. Cue the bombers."
These are very scary people. All of them.