Thursday, June 01, 2006

A Clear and Muddy Path

"Propaganda" is what Iranian officials have called the recent and so-called "policy shift" of the US toward direct negoatiations with Tehran over the nuclear issue. It is hard to argue against that claim.

The supposed effort on the part of the Bush administration to engage the Iranians directly, though multilaterally, is belied by the simple fact that, before negotiations even begin, Iranians must offer concessions and halt all enrichment activity. The stance of the White House is not indicative of a genuine desire to resolve the issue diplomatically because, in any negotiation, one party cannot or should not place demands on the other before talks even begin. That is what the talks are for. By making negotiation conditional upon acceding to pre-negotiation demands, the Bush administration is dooming any such diplomotic effort from the start. And they know it.

This "policy shift" is anything but and seems designed as a face-saving move on the part of the White House, after having been shown up recently, both by Iranian calls for direct talks and Iraqi support for Tehran's position. This move allows the Bush administration to appear congenial to a diplomatic solution while not actually giving such a solution the slightest chance.

With many of the players either asking or demanding the US come to the negotiation table, White House intransigence in the matter was seen by Rice and others as the only excuse the Iranians had for refusing to abide Washington's wishes. Eliminate that excuse, by offering to talk but demanding appeasement before talks even begin, and the next phase of whatever the hell plan it is these people have can begin. The disingenuous nature of Rice's offer of negotiation is exactly revealed for what it is by Rice, herself:
This is the last excuse in some sense. There have been those who have said, 'Well, if only the negotiations had the potential for the United States to be a part of them, perhaps then Iran would respond.' So now we have a pretty clear path.
If Iranians refuse to accede to US demands to halt enrichment -- and I imagine Rice expects they will -- Rice's "clear path" seems anything but. But what it won't be is a path to the negotiation table.


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