May 15, 2007

Talk isn't cheap

David Ignatius was positively overjoyed a few weeks ago when he wrote about Signs of a Spring Thaw in relations between the United States and Iran

Sometimes big developments are hidden in plain sight, and that appears to be the case with Iran and the United States. The two countries have moved over the past year from mutual isolation to the edge of serious diplomatic discussions.

The Bush administration is aggressively signaling that it wants such a dialogue. But the Iranians, who seem convinced they have the upper hand, are being coy. They still seem unsure whether Iran's national interests are best served by a deepening confrontation with America or by a policy of engagement.

...a process of bargaining is underway between Iran and America. That's what became clear this week, in two different diplomatic channels. And it marks a change from the isolation and intense suspicion that have prevailed for most of the 28 years since the Iranian revolution of 1979.

The two fronts that Ignatius writes about are the nuclear track and the second surround the efforts of the United States to secure Iraq. According to Ignatius

The door is opening on the possibility of the first real U.S.-Iranian negotiations since 1979. Both sides have to decide they want them -- and ignore the powerful voices in each capital that argue for confrontation.

Ignatius is one of those analysts who see value in talking under all circumstances. But what else has been going on? Is there any indication that a greater American opening to Iran will defuse the current diplomatic confrontation?

This week the United States acknowledged that it was seeking talks with Iran by the end of May and what has been happening?

1) Iran has been expelling thousands of Afghan refugees possibly destabilizing the government of Afghan President Karzai. (h/t JoshuaPundit)

2) President Ahmadinejad is a guest of honor at a massive anti-American rally in Dubai right after VP Cheney left. The Washington Post reproted about President Ahmadinejad's "tempered tone." I don't know if irony was intended. (h/t again JoshuaPundit)

3) Iran has arrested an Iranian born American academic, Haleh Esfandiari. (h/t Israeli Matzav, Deja Vu)

4) Iran has resolved a major technical issue necessary to enrich uranium. (h/t Israel Matzav )

Given the anticipation of talks with the United States, clearly Tehran seeks to up the ante. And from its standpoint, it makes sense. Consider the following report from an Iranian news agency.

US Cable News Network CNN says upcoming US direct talks with Iran shows that Washington needs Tehran to quell the violence in Iraq.

Suzanne Malveaux, CNN correspondent, in a report from the White House said on Monday, the decision to hold talks on Iraq showed, after four years, that how significant Iran's role is in solving Iraq situation.

Given that this an Iranian news agency, it's safe to assume that this reflects (to some degree) the official thinking in Tehran. The United States turning to Iran, show that the United States needs Iran. So Iran will raise the price of dealing with it. Cause more anti-U.S. mischief so that the United States will lower its demands.

It even appears to be working. One of Tehran's non-negotiable demands will be met.

The Iranians were captured in a surprise U.S. raid on an Iranian office in the Kurdish city of Irbil Jan. 11, although they were not the intended targets, The Independent (Britain) reported. The two men wanted by the U.S. military were elsewhere, but their official vehicles were parked in front of the building.

Zebari said under an agreement governing such detentions, the United States can detain them for 90 days, which is renewable once, and then either charge them, hand them over to Iraqi authorities or release them.

(Though it is possible that a deal to free the Iranians was in the works earlier.)

All in all, it appears that thawing American resolve only encourages further Iranian intransigence and confrontation. But this should come as no surprise.

In a parallel case, that of Syria, Barry Rubin, The Syrian tragedy and the American one has documented how flattering the dictator has only brought more repression in its wake.

Anwar al-Bunni, a lawyer and another brave dissident, knew what held back Syria from crushing any dissent. Back in 2003, he explained, "The government's fear that it will be next on America's 'regime change' list may make it wary of committing gross violations of human rights....Some of us say that it is only because of what America did in Iraq, the fright it gave our rulers, that we reformers stand a chance here."
Bunni was proven right. Once Syria no longer had any fear, the regime sentenced him to five years' imprisonment. Two more democratic activists, one of them Michel Kilo, an articulate journalist who most clearly expressed the hope of peaceful change in Syria, will be sentenced soon.

What's gone on is that United States - whether the Bush administration or freelance legistlators - have signaled repressive regimes that they're willing to talk, and the regimes immediately increase their oppressiveness and anti-Americanism. It's not a coincidence, that's the way these things work.

David Ignatius seems to think that there's always value in talk. There might be, but the value is not realized by the good guys.

, , .

Posted by SoccerDad at May 15, 2007 2:41 PM
Share and Enjoy: These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages.
  • digg
  • Furl
  • Spurl
  • YahooMyWeb
  • co.mments
  • Ma.gnolia
  • blogmarks
  • BlinkList
  • NewsVine
  • scuttle
  • Fark
  • Shadows
Add this blog to my Technorati Favorites!