t’s official: The hawks no longer rule the Bush administration, said Philip Sherwell in the London Telegraph. For the first time since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, the U.S. last week actually sent an envoy to sit at the same table with an Iranian diplomat. William Burns, the No. 3 official in the State Department, attended the latest round of Geneva talks between the five countries of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, on the one side, and Iran, on the other. The U.S. had always insisted it would not negotiate until Iran suspended uranium enrichment—which still has not happened. The U.S. claims that it hasn’t backtracked because Burns was just there to observe, not talk, but the distinction is academic. In “a further unexpected overture,” the U.S. said it would consider opening an “interests section” in Tehran, the first step toward establishing diplomatic relations. The two initiatives are evidence that it is now Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice who sets the foreign-policy agenda, and not “the neoconservative champion,” Vice President Dick Cheney. Rice has persuaded Bush that an emphasis on “diplomacy, rather than confrontation,” will save his legacy.
It’s no accident that the Bush administration waited until now to make its move, said Bernd Pickert in Germany’s Die Tageszeitung. The Iranian leadership is divided over the nuclear question. The West, meanwhile, is more united now that the Europeans have come closer to the American way of thinking on the issue, promising ever-tougher sanctions if the Iranians don’t halt their nuclear experiments. “When someone is weak and you are strong, that’s the time to negotiate.” The U.S. concession, therefore, is “merely a tactical move, not a strategic shift in position. The U.S. goal remains regime change in Tehran.”
The inclusion of an American at the talks was a huge “success for European diplomacy,” said Pierre Rousselin in France’s Le Figaro. As long as the U.S. was boycotting the discussions, Iran could plausibly claim that the negotiations weren’t really serious. But now that the Bush administration has made such “an about-face,” Iran has the space to make concessions without losing face itself. The European-led negotiations now have a real chance of succeeding in reining in the Iranian nuclear program.
Not true, said Hoseyn Shariatmadari in Iran’s Keyhan. Why should Iran concede anything now? The contest between the U.S. and Iran has been “like a game of chicken,” with two cars hurtling toward each other on a single-lane road. The U.S. was the one to swerve. The proof is now in: “America is a toothless lion that can do nothing but roar.” And Iran has been “right all along to insist on keeping its lawful nuclear program.”
- How to make people like you: 6 science-based conversation hacks
- Watch The Daily Show mock Fox News' 'white Santa' claim
- Diagnosing the Home Alone burglars' injuries: A professional weighs in
- How John Boehner learned to stop worrying and hate the Tea Party
- How the budget deal could pave the way for immigration reform
- 10 things you need to know today: December 13, 2013
- The Black Death is back
- A candid look at what went wrong with Mitt Romney's campaign
- What one thing can determine whether or not you're successful in life?
- The lingering mystery of the 1964 World's Fair
Subscribe to the Week