Is it just me, or is it that the talks between the US and Iran in Baghdad were deliberately scheduled for Memorial Day here in the US so that the spin could be firmly in place by the time any of the major news media actually notices what was said?
Unfortunately, you rarely go wrong from being too cynical about the motives of the current incumbents of the White House.
Expectations from the talks seem to be very low among analysts - as both parties have entrenched positions and are under intense pressure from their own hardliners not to negotiate.
The AP notes:
The United States is pursuing a two-track strategy with Iran that reflects the high stakes in any engagement with a nation President Bush accuses of bankrolling terrorism and secretly building a nuclear bomb.Of course, the Cheneyites would say the undermining process is the other way around. Iranian hardliners are likely to see it the same way, as the FT points out.
Monday's talks in Baghdad are one element. Discussion between the U.S. and Iranian ambassadors is only supposed to cover Iraq, where they have competing and overlapping interests.
Then there are the U.S. Navy's exercises in the Persian Gulf last week and tough talk from Bush about new U.N. penalties against Tehran.
``In the American mind, the two tracks sort of complement each other,'' with the muscle-flexing and threats serving to push Iran to the bargaining table, said Ray Takeyh, an Iran specialist at the Council on Foreign Relations.
``Iran only sees one track'' and thinks it is a trap, Takeyh said. He does not hold out much hope the diplomats will get beyond talking points on Monday.
``The coercive track is undermining and negating the diplomatic track and preventing any sort of meaningful discussions,'' Takeyh said.
the cause of greatest concern for Iranians is the military build-up in the Gulf and the bellicose statements of Vice-President Dick Cheney, who analysts in Washington say believes confrontation is inevitable.The Washington post writes that the Bush administration will bang the same old drums:
Mohammad Javad Larijani, brother of Iran’s top security official Ali Larijani, recently remarked in Jordan: “If Dick Cheney is supposed to continue intimidating Iran on a daily basis and US officials continue allocating budget, as they claim, to change the Iranian regime and openly show hostility towards Iran, then any clever person will ask why they should talk at all?”
The United States intends to lay out a comprehensive account of Iran's growing military role in Iraq -- including the array of arms provided to both Shiite and Sunni militias -- during critical talks between U.S. and Iranian diplomats scheduled for tomorrow in Baghdad, according to senior U.S. officials.While the Iranians are likely to have new accusations of meddling too - following reports that Bush has authorized covert ops against Iran, they are now saying that they have uncovered spy networks run by the US and others aimed at destabilizing the Iranian regime.
Ryan C. Crocker, the U.S. ambassador in Baghdad, will also outline steps Iran could take to help stabilize war-ravaged Iraq, both politically and militarily. Any subsequent meeting will depend on the quality of the dialogue and Iran's cooperation in the coming weeks, the sources added.