Condi’s hidden agenda with Iran

On a private listserv, Columbia professor and Iran expert Gary Sick shares his thoughts on U.S. policy toward Iran (posted with permission): ALI AL-SAADI-ALI HAIDER/AFP/Getty Images Over the past several weeks, there has been a quiet process of apparent concessions and small gestures of approval between the United States and Iran in Iraq. General Petraeus ...

By , a former managing editor of Foreign Policy.
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598008_071126_iran_05.jpg

On a private listserv, Columbia professor and Iran expert Gary Sick shares his thoughts on U.S. policy toward Iran (posted with permission):

On a private listserv, Columbia professor and Iran expert Gary Sick shares his thoughts on U.S. policy toward Iran (posted with permission):

ALI AL-SAADI-ALI HAIDER/AFP/Getty Images

Over the past several weeks, there has been a quiet process of apparent concessions and small gestures of approval between the United States and Iran in Iraq. General Petraeus told the Wall Street Journal that Iran “made promises at the highest levels of the Iranian government to the highest levels of the Iraqi government. These were unequivocal pledges to stop the funding, training, arming and directing of militia extremists in Iraq. It will be hugely significant to see if that’s the case.” Only a few weeks earlier, U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates had noted that the discovery and use of improvised explosive devices (IED) of suspected Iranian origin in Iraq had declined, along with the general decline of violence associated with the U.S. military surge and new counter-insurgency tactics.

In between these two announcements, the U.S. military released nine Iranians who had been arrested and held for many months. […]

I withhold judgment for now, but I think this series of unexpected events that got very little media attention was important in several ways. First, it tends to put the lie to all the heated speculation that the United States is about to bomb Iran. […] Second, it lays a more constructive background for the next round of U.S.-Iranian talks in Baghdad, which should convene in the near future. […]

Finally, I note that U.S. foreign policy is increasingly in the hands of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who is showing herself to be a consummate realist, particularly as the neo-conservative ideologues increasingly find themselves without government employ and quarantined from the policy process, and as the Office of the Vice President watches its policy influence evaporating almost by the day. I am particularly intrigued by the fact that administration policy toward North Korea and the Palestinian issue have effectively reversed in the past year (regardless of pro-forma administration claims that the policies remain steady and unchanging).

Is there room in these last months of a lame duck presidency to craft a modest opening to Iran, while maintaining a stout anti-Iranian coalition?

Well, if we are to heed the cries of alarm emanating from the neo-conservatives as they watch their grandiose plans to add a third front to the War on Terror crumple into the dustbin of history, perhaps there really is something going on here.

As I noted earlier, these diplomatic openings with Iran have a way of falling apart. Sick goes on to note that any rapprochement with Tehran will proceed under the radar to minimize the risk for both sides:

Nevertheless, since this is a policy that dare not speak its name, even if these titillating signals are true, no turning point will be announced in blaring trumpets, and the message about Iran will be cloaked in vitriol and bile to prevent creating undue alarm among American conservatives and among the Arabs who are only now signing on to a long-term strategy to counter the “Iranian threat” but who also deeply fear the possibility of a sudden deal between the United States and Iran….

Watch this space. 

Blake Hounshell is a former managing editor of Foreign Policy.

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