November 21, 2006

Snow Gray


From the Scotsman: Battered Bush shows new zeal for diplomacy.

THE Bush administration has not been known for dramatic policy shifts, until last week.

For while the US President was making tentative noises that Syria and Iran might have a role to play in salvaging something from the wreckage of Iraq, the previously unthinkable was already happening.

Damascus and Tehran have been talking to senior Washington diplomats and advisers about their role in creating some kind of stability in the region.

James Baker, the former Secretary of State leading a task force of Washington's "wise men" to try to find the most palatable policy options available is acting as a proxy for the administration as it tries to persuade Iran to put pressure on Shi'ites to compromise while also pressuring Syria to use its influence with the Sunni leaders of the insurgency.

The US's new willingness to engage Iran was demonstrated when Baker recently had a three-hour dinner with Tehran's ambassador to the UN. ...

Although the US is not officially speaking with either Damascus or Tehran, Baker's talks point the way towards a future in which it is compelled to shift direction in private, even if it continues to take a hard line publicly.

Baker himself has repeatedly argued that "it is not appeasement to talk to your enemies". Even so, the remaining hawks in the administration ask what possible carrots the US can offer Syria and Iran - the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism - in return for their help in Iraq that would not themselves negate key elements of American foreign policy.

The Baker view, however, has at least one powerful ally in the administration. Robert Gates, nominated to replace Donald Rumsfeld as Secretary of Defence, is also in favour of talks with Iran and Syria. Gates, who is currently serving as a member of the Iraq Study Group, will now advocate engagement from inside the administration.

From Hamilton Spectator: Democracy in Iraq out of reach for now, Kissinger says.

Former U.S. secretary of state Henry Kissinger, a frequent adviser to President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, has concluded that the United States must choose between stability and democracy in Iraq -- and that democracy, for now, is out of reach.

Posted by Forkum at November 21, 2006 05:07 PM