Creative Diplomatic Move by Iran: Direct Talks or Bust

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ahmadinejad.jpg
Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is pulling a slick and interesting move in US-Iran diplomacy by sending President Bush the first letter from an Iranian President to a U.S. President in 27 years.
This is clever.
The Europeans have been our interlocutors with Iran, but that hasn’t been enough. Republican Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Richard Luger has been calling for the U.S. to negotiate directly with Iran. Democrat Joe Biden has been calling for the same. Last September at a conference I helped organize, General Wesley Clark began the drumbeat calling for direct contact with Iran. It seemed the least we could do before unleashing a wave of bombers.
In 2003, the Iranians — through the Swiss who are America’s custodians of diplomatic necessities in Iran — sent the Bush administration a one page fax suggesting a “dialogue of great civilizations.” According to one former intelligence and White House official, that fax included a roster of issues and realities on both the American and Iran side that the Iranians suggested be part of this dialogue.
Included on Iran’s list was its nuclear energy interests, its support for activities of groups like Hezbollah and other dicey issues.
We don’t know yet what is in the Ahmadinejad-Bush letter, but Ahmadinejad is calling himself for serious bilateral negotiations.
If Bush responds, perhaps we have a stunning breakthrough in the style if not the substance of interaction between the U.S. and Iran.
Bush, however, finds Ahmadinejad and Iran’s ruling mullahs repugnant. He doesn’t want to extend them legitimacy with serious engagement from his government. Bush wants regime change in Iran, but what he wants and what is possible are radically different.
If Bush responds to the Iran letter positively, there could be some serious progress in the relaxation of tensions with Iran. If he fails to respond, Ahmadinejad will win global points for creative diplomacy, and American foreign policy will continue on a clunky, self-defeating track.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may be continuing some of the anti-Israel bile in some of his earlier comments, but he may also know that he needs to send a signal to the President that his government is ready to deal.
One eery thought though is that Ahmadinejad may be using this letter as his “hotline” to Bush.
When tensions got to hyper-serious levels with the old Soviet Union, one of the most important crisis-management tools that both sides embedded during the Cold War was a hotline between the national leaders of the US and USSR.
We had no such hotline with Saddam Hussein. He tried to use Dan Rather in that famous pre-invasion interview to communicate directly with Bush.
Ahmadinejad may know something we don’t. He may suspect that Bush is serious in some insane way about launching those bombers in the near term and is making sure the world sees his creative diplomacy.
We need to know the contents of the letter.
We also need to be wary of public comment from the White House — and realize that there is hopefully a secret dance, a side process going on, that is not publicly visible.
While I have no evidence, this Ahmadinejad letter may be something that was building on an earlier Kissinger-type diplomacy involving visa-less Mohammad Nahavandian about which I wrote recently.
Stay tuned.
— Steve Clemons

Comments

41 comments on “Creative Diplomatic Move by Iran: Direct Talks or Bust

  1. Mustafa Malik says:

    Besides our economy’s dependence on war-making, our administration is run by Cold War retirees who have spent all their lives in the war-making business. They have no clues about the new world and few skills to deal with it other than by using and flexing the military muscle. The problem is that the military is no longer a useful tool in conducting foreign relations, as the Iraq war has shown it. If Iraq has been America’s qagmire, an Iran advednture will be its nightmare.
    Mustafa

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  2. Matthew says:

    Simon Schama said it best in his second volume of the History of Britain: An empire always offers a weaker people a deal, collaboration or destruction. The idea we need “regime change” in Iran is ridiculous. We want access to their energy reserves. And we are willing to gin up a war to get them. There is nothing more terrifying to an empire than the natives wanting to control their own resources.
    Why don’t we talk about the obvious. Our economy now depends on war-making. Hence, why we keep needing to start new ones.

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  3. john says:

    The American people are very proud of their elections where under 50% of the voters turn out; the electorate is conned by big money advertisements; the big money is given to candidates as veritable bribes; only two gangster groups of political mafias can attract the big money bribes to run a campaign; the home of the free and the brave are best swayed by fear and outright swiftboat lies, and are told things by the candidates as if they were children, or retarded; the elections are filled with fraud and easy ways to corrupt the vote count.
    The American political system is rotten to the core, and we should not be leading the world, or think we should be leading the world until we can we clean up our own act at home. Let the world laugh out loud any time they hear one of our puffed up people tell of our Democracy, blah, blah, blah. It’s just other political system rife with corruption.
    God Bless America!

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  4. Mustafa Malik says:

    John,
    I agree with you that the problem with Ahmedinejad is that he thinks the world is — or should be — “flocking toward” God. But how different is it from Bush’s and the neocons’ view that all the Muslim world should be American-style democracy? Even many American-educated Muslims in the Middle East scorn our political process which makes a man of Bush’s intellectual prowess and Bill Clinton’s moral fiber the “leader of the Free World.” Of course many other Americans, too, consider our democratic system a kind of religion and think it’s the best thing the world could ever have. But many people in developing countries who are fighting for freedom and democracy see it as seriously flawed and needing to be drastically overhauled before we preach it to mankind.
    Mustafa

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  5. john says:

    I’ve read the portions of the Iranian President’s letter that were allowed to be leaked to the press and I find him very in tune with the truth and what Democrats and Liberal’s have been saying for years about Bush and his administration. This guy gets it that Bush is our and the world’s greatest threat; that he’s a war criminal with a skewed world view who only wants more war. The only problem with what Iran’s President wrote to Bush, I mean, those parts that were leaked to the press, is that he believes “that people around the world are flocking towards a main focal point – that is the Almighty God.” I can’t abide by that. If he said towards Jesus Christ, the Truth and the Way, then I would tend to support him on that. And he is also wrong that Bush does not follow God. I believe he does and says to hell with Jesus. God wants the Armageddon main focal point disaster, not peacenik Jesus.

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  6. Carroll says:

    sheesh is right Peace…..you sound like another curveball…and after looking at the mess we made in Iraq and everywhere else we “install” US friendly regimes, if you have family in Iran you must be slighty nutty to wish that on them.

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  7. G. Warmonger Bush says:

    Letter?
    What letter?

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  8. Mustafa Malik says:

    Peace,
    This administration has no greater zeal for democracy in Iran than it does in Iraq, where it went in with plans to build 14 �enduring bases� and the world�s largest embassy and largest CIA station. It wanted to make Iraq the bastion of American power in the Middle East.
    You would recall that in 1953 a more benign Republican administration overthrew Iran�s multi-party secular democracy, which had refused to toe its line, and installed a ruthless autocrat, Muhammad Riza Pahlavi, to serve as America�s cop in the Middle East. America�s �empire builders� discovered Iran�s need for secular democracy only when that tyrant was overthrown by the Khomeini revolution.
    As you would know, the Crusaders roared into the Middle East with the mission to �save souls,� but they built kingdoms. The British and French barged in with the mission to �civilize� the natives, but they colonized the region and plundered its resources. Now America�s empire builders are proclaiming their mission to �democratize� the Middle East in order to insure the supply of cheap oil and preserve Israel�s nuclear monopoly there.
    Some supporters of the shah�s tyrannical regime have converted overnight into democrats in the hope of returning to power on the back of American tanks, as Ahmed Chalabi and his ilk tried to do in Iraq. I�m sure you are not one of them. I believe, however, that few self-respecting Iranians will welcome an American invasion, which would only enhance the Ahmedinejad regime�s popularity in your country and delay its inevitable return to democracy. Only the Iranians can�and will– usher in full-fledged democracy in Iran.
    Mustafa

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  9. sheesh says:

    Peace sounds Chalabiesque in his telling us what a wonderful world it would be in cakewalkian fashion to put some force on Iran. The people are ready for us to move right in. Do it yourselves, peace! Throttle the hell out of your imams yourselves and we promise to recognize immediately the new government of the people of Iran. Why do you need us to kick some righteous ass when you have millions in Iran to do it themselves? If you don’t want it bad enough you ain’t gonna get it.

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  10. Mimi Schaeffer says:

    Indeed, very clever of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
    Although from my perch, the U.S. is screwed when it comes to dealing with Iran.
    There is no way, no how that Russia or China are going to stand by and watch the U.S. attack Iran and then control ALL the Middle East oil.

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  11. peace says:

    As an Iranian who just returned from Iran, I must report to all of your readers that Europe and American Democrats are the only one taking Ahmadinejad seriously. He is a joke back home, that hallow letter is just a PR trick, nothing else. Khomenie did the same thing right after revolution to Soviets. Iran only fears force and nothing else. I am not for an attack on Iran, since my own family lives right next to one of the nuclear plants. But American should use its power to stir unrest inside Iran. Iranian workers already demonstrated on May 1st, that they are frustrated at this regime and ready to do something. Europe, Russia and China must act like an adult and think about their economic ties with Iran. Total world boycott will bring the Regime to its knees. Iran is not Iraq, people are tiered of religion and they are ready for secular, democratic country.
    I urge all Democrats to urge your representative to unite with President Bush on Iran and do something constructive.

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  12. rapier says:

    Cooling the Iran situation could take gasoline down at least 75 cents. There is s very large risk premium in oil now and the release of the Iran pressure would lead to a sudden oil downturn which would inevitably overshoot on the downside, right thru the heart of the summer/fall.
    without doubt this offers a fantastic political home run for Bush. I have felt for a long time that there is some chance the administration would reach for this because after all they are only about politics, not policy.
    Is Bush crazy enough to continue moving towards war with Iran, which could lead to world war at worst or to a bright demarcation line of Americas decline when Russia and China take Irans side.
    China is the hidden player in all this. China is really the first front for the various flavors of cons running things. The wet dream is that we can essentially take physical control of middle east oil and have a checkmate on Chinas economic prospects. Make no mistake, China has the potential to be the worlds greatest power in 2 or 3 generations. That is of course unacceptable.
    If we cannot be the worlds greatest power then we will inevitably bring Armegeddon. In fact loss of our primacy is the definition of Armogedden.
    So what is it going to be. Short term politcal gain agains God’s will that America rules the earth?

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  13. Liesbeth says:

    On secret deals
    Many of you may want to overlook this, but all US foreign politics is propelled by domestic issues. Many of you may not remember the deal making between Kissinger and the government of South Vietnam. South Vietnam walked out of the peace negotiations which were underway with North Vietnam during the Paris peace negotiations, which stipulated more or less the same peace agreement accepted by the US a decade later. Nevertheless, the South Vietnamese government taking a hike made the democrats (Johnson)look soft on US national security. Nixon won the White House.
    The same happened at the end of Carter’s term when republicans negotiated a deal with the Iranian government not to release the hostages at the US embassy in Teheran after the US presidential elections in exchange for, well, weapons.
    I wouldn’t be surprised if a ‘back and forth letter writing’ would go on until October and the US electorate would, having seen once again a brave decider (on the brink of using nuclear weapons) stepping into the vacuum created by himself and bravely made a gesture to Iran, vote republican again in November.

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  14. civitas says:

    “This example is one they use: if you were addressing a group of 150 people and only 1 in the crowd has ever actually killed someone, who would you most worry about causing you harm?”
    I missed the hilarity in this the first time around. I guess your “friends” think the Japanese and Germans didn’t “actually kill” anyone. And of course, Iran and Iraq have never killed anyone either. It would be funnier if it weren’t so sad. Why are you so easily tricked Karen?

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  15. civitas says:

    “What is that position? ”
    uh, that Iran cannot have nuclear weapons. Have you been on a deserted island for the last year?
    “To drop a nuc on them before they do it to us?”
    why would you drop a “nuc” on them?
    “Many of my European friends have told me that they think Bush is more dangerous than Ahmadinejad.”
    I’m sure they all have the best interests of the US at heart.
    “After all, they remind me, the United States is the ONLY country in the world to ever actually drop a nuclear bomb on people.”
    The Japanese. Some think we should have treated the Germans the same way.
    “This example is one they use: if you were addressing a group of 150 people and only 1 in the crowd has ever actually killed someone, who would you most worry about causing you harm?”
    the one who had saved your heinies several times? Something tells me that more people worry about Europeans causing them harm than the US. After all, Europe has an incredible history of bloodshed. So if you’re going by history, the euros would be tough to beat. So Karen, if any of your European “friends” were being attacked, would they run to Iran to save them or the US? Think about it.

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  16. Mustafa Malik says:

    Oops! I forgot to mention that my Iranian source denied that Iran wants to make nukes but said the “region” would remain unstable without “a deterrent” to Israel’s nuclear arsenal.
    Mustafa

    Reply

  17. Carroll says:

    There is no doubt that Iran is smarter than George…except for their Israeli screeds, which I think were overblown to begin with, they have made this adm look like the idiots they actually are. I can’t even begin to guess if or how Bush will respond…it is totally useless to speculate on what crazies will do.
    I am still hung up on blessing India’s nuclear development and denying Iran’s.

    Reply

  18. Mustafa Malik says:

    Steve
    Direct U.S.-Iranian dialogue is necessary for Middle Eastern stability and the preservation of American interests and influence in the oil-rich Gulf. An Iranian government source told me that the Ahmedinejad regime maintains that a nuclear arms race in that region can be averted if America is ready to consider two things. One, Israel must be brought into the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and, secondly, the United States has to begin to fulfill its own obligations under Article VI of the NPT, which obliges it and other nuclear weapons states to begin to reduce their nuclear arsenals toward the goal of nuclear disarmament.
    During a May 2 press briefing I asked Robert Joseph, the U.S. undersecretary of state for arms control, about the administration�s position on the two questions. He sidestepped the first, and said the United States is already working on the second, which is a lie. Joseph, as you know, is on record saying that the United States should have the option to use nuclear �bunker-busters� in any attack on Iranian nuclear facilities. I don�t think a dialogue with Iran, a good step by all means, would go too far as long as President Bush remains hostage to these Cold War jingoists who have yet to learn the lesson of the Iraq war, viz. that �shock and awe� doesn�t impress Muslim societies anymore.
    Mustafa

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  19. baffled says:

    civitas,
    would you kindly define “our”?

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  20. karen says:

    Civitas,
    What is that position? To drop a nuc on them before they do it to us? Many of my European friends have told me that they think Bush is more dangerous than Ahmadinejad. After all, they remind me, the United States is the ONLY country in the world to ever actually drop a nuclear bomb on people.
    This example is one they use: if you were addressing a group of 150 people and only 1 in the crowd has ever actually killed someone, who would you most worry about causing you harm?

    Reply

  21. civitas says:

    Bush won’t (and shouldn’t) respond to the letter. Our position is pretty clear.

    Reply

  22. Steve Clemons says:

    sorry bob mcmanus — being facetious…mostly.
    steve clemons

    Reply

  23. ight says:

    But when is Karl Rove to be indicted? This week, or never.
    I got a plan. Announce that Bush accepts Iran’s overtures on the day that the Rove indictment is imminent. If no Rove indictment, don’t bother with the communique at all unless it is needed to ward off some other scandal about to be unveiled.

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  24. bob mcmanus says:

    “…launching those bombers in the near term.”
    Hey! You and Arkin been telling me ain’t gonna be war unless Iran starts it. I have been counting on you. You are scaring me.

    Reply

  25. rip torn says:

    I hate it that I hate Bush so much that I would hate to see him do something right that would undermine the basis for my hate of him. Please don’t shatter my world view Mr. Bush by doing something outside your characicture (sp.?). No about face now, please, that puts me in the wilderness; that tears me between what is good for the country and your execution as a War Criminal. Please keep my world simple Mr. Bush and say in no uncertain terms that you do not negotiate with evil terroristic countries that seek nuklur weapons to threaten our allies. Please be true to form, relentless in your ignorance, and save my sanity for I have put much effort in my righteous wrath against your evil ways. I beg of you!

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  26. daCascadian says:

    The Iran-Contra “arrangement” continues
    “Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact….Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.” – newshog@gmail.com

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  27. theblogplace says:

    Brace yourself for a flood of propaganda against Iran during the next several months.
    —————–
    theblogplace.net: http://www.theblogplace.net
    bloggerclub.org: http://www.bloggerclub.org
    —————–

    Reply

  28. Sharoney says:

    Bush and his cronies will see this overture to sane discussions between adversaries as a sign of weakness.
    Chimpy is the Decider. He’s already decided he wants war with Iran. To this strutting little bully, the letter is a “please don’t hurt me” signal, and like all bullies, he will respond the way bullies do, with ridicule and then violence.

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  29. EasyE says:

    Regarding the letter, in the near term BushCo will be forced to go through diplomatic motions to appease sagging poll numbers. As November approaches, however, neocon warmongers and those that control corporate media translation of Iranian events (MEMRI)will manipilulate public opinion in their favor to ensure U.S. and/or Israeli military aggression. Unfortunately, the whole system is complicit.

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  30. Mmmm says:

    Oh, My Gawd! What a masterstroke windfall Bush is being given.
    Foiled again, Dems!
    Mount Rushmore talk will once again in vogue. Oil prices plummet; Iraq solved; Palestine/Israel solved; Iran solved; Peace in our time; Victory for the Good; Bush the greatest President ever when all is said and done.
    The greatest opportunity ever presented to a world leader in world history.
    God Blesses America!

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  31. Philemon Sherwood says:

    If Bush accepts the Iranian proposal, most all negative things said about him will be dashed asunder! This will be a mighty defeat for all the nattering nabobs of negativism that stalk Bush; all their psychoanalysis of Bush gone for naught as he will prove that he’s not the man all his detractors thought he was. He can become a “good” man. A man of Peace. Blessed are the peacemakers.
    What wailing and gnashing of teeth there shall be by the Bush haters when this Nobel Peace Prize move is made that transforms Bush in an instant.
    God surely works in mysterious ways. The world outlook is about to change. Hope, peace and light are on the way!
    All praise goes to Jesus in defeating Our enemies at home.

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  32. Harry says:

    Ahmadinejad?
    What about the US’ relationship withIraqi Prime Minister-designate Jawad al-Maliki?
    Mr al-Maliki *refused* to be photographed with Dr (I see a mushroom cloud) Rice and Field Marshall Rumsfeld.
    What about the US’ relationship with al Dawa party (i.e. the fundamentalist Shiite faction responsible for the bombings of the American Marine and French Headquarters of the Multi-national Peacekeeping Force in Beirut back in 1983)?
    In direct response to the 9/11 attacks, Bush, Rice, Rumsfeld, et al have *inadvertently* fathered a burgeoning fundamentalist Islamic democracy which has extremely close to Iran which is being deemed an axis of evil.
    WTF?

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  33. MNPundit says:

    “Ahmadinejad may know something we don’t. He may suspect that Bush is serious in some insane way about launching those bombers in the near term and is making sure the world sees his creative diplomacy.”
    Steve, how can you say that? How can we all not know that Bush is absolutely serious? He wants to bomb Iran for a multitude of reasons, some utterly mad, some less so and nothing is going to stand in his way. Especially not some letter that may offer reasonable imput.

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  34. earl says:

    With Bush at 33% approval, he has no recourse but to be a uniter not a divider with Iran and wave the banner of peace. Decietful warmonger is what got him to 33%; taking Iran’s olive branch can get him back to 45%, oil prices will tumble, and the biggest incentive of all for Bush is that the Republicans will have a much better chance of holding on to power if Bush plays nice and alleviates tensions. This boy king can pull it off by strutting around being the bold new initiator of sensible foreign policy, not someone who has caved to terrorists, all for the good of the Republican Party.
    Here comes a Big Fat pitch he can hit out of the ballpark and save the day. God is surely on his side.
    Praise be to Jesus!

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  35. ThomasMc says:

    > If Bush responds to the Iran letter positively
    HAHAHA! God, you crack me up.

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  36. Alex says:

    For Mullahs to get the bomb they play every trick you can imagine. I hope Bush Adminstration celever enough to handle this “smart” Islamic little Hitler properly.

    Reply

  37. Punchy says:

    Cynical as ever, I see no real diplomatic effort on the part of the Bush team. They don’t want these conflicts to disappear–the Bush Admin and his Congress’ survival is grounded on maintaining constant fear, constant panic, constant war-planning mode. To suddenly dissolve this crisis, while good for the world, would prevent him from “talking tough”.
    What else could Bush then talk about? If he can’t sabre-rattle, what in the world would he give speeches on? Abstinence? The mental picture of Bush attempting to negotiate anything is far too comical, and his advisors must know this.

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  38. Pissed Off American says:

    Dream on. Bush talks of a diplomatic solution while refusing to engage in diplomacy. He talks of credible intelligence about Iran’s nuclear ambitions and assets when in fact it appears his people were responsible for dismantling the very spy cell that was reasponsible for pursuing that intelligence and determining those assets. If war with Iran is not Bush’s ambition, than certainly the demonization of the Iranian regime is. You cannot engage in effective diplomacy by painting the Iranians as “devils” in the court of world opinion. This letter will only serve as evidence to future generations of Bush’s total refusal to seek peaceful solutions with the Muslim community. But in the here and now, the letter will only be rejected and scorned as Bush and his handlers continue to purposely escalate the tension in that region of the world.
    BTW, I just caught a bit of the Hayden press conference. Scary indeed when a person offered as the head of the CIA stands before the American people in a military uniform. The Bushlickers hate the comparisons to Nazi Germany, but when such events are cast our way, how can we avoid drawing parrallels? Well, at least now Bush will not need to manipulate intelligence to justify policy. Now, he can simply fabricate the intelligence, in league with another treasonous poodle, chosen not for his suitability to the job at hand, but rather for his loyalty to the ambitions of our dictator.

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  39. Sally says:

    Our war-mongers will be figuring out how to spin this (?) olive branch. Rasputin, aka Rove, is moaning, “Damn, what bad timing. I need that war to get my people elected/reelected.”
    We will only know what is in the letter if Iran tells us. Otherwise, it will be cherry-picked by Condi and Company to suit their purposes.

    Reply

  40. snookered says:

    Looks more to me like Iran is setting the tone. Once BushCo rejects any outreach then the Iranians can say they reached out and that the US is not serious about peaceful negotiations.

    Reply

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