WASHINGTON, May 26 — The Bush administration is beginning to debate whether to set aside a longstanding policy taboo and open direct talks with Iran, to help avert a crisis over Tehran's suspected nuclear weapons program, European officials and Americans close to the administration said Friday...
European leaders make no secret of their desire for the United States to join in the talks with Iran, if only to show that the Americans have gone the extra mile to avoid a confrontation that could spiral into a fight over sanctions or even military action.
But since the Iranian revolution of 1979 and the crisis over the seizure of American hostages in November that year, the United States has avoided direct talks with Iran. There were sporadic contacts during the war in Afghanistan, in the early stages of the Iraq war and in the days after the earthquake in Bam, Iran, at the end of 2003.
European officials say Ms. Rice has begun discussing the issue with top aides at the State Department. Her belief, they say, is that ultimately the matter will have to be addressed by the administration's national security officials, whether talks with Iran remain at an impasse or even if there is some progress...
Administration officials said President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld have opposed direct talks, even through informal back channels. As a result, many European officials say they doubt that a decision to talk is likely soon.
The prospect of direct talks between the United States and Iran is so politically delicate within the Bush administration that the officials who described the emerging debate would discuss it only after being granted anonymity...
State Department officials refused to talk about the issue, even anonymously. But over the last week, administration spokesmen have been careful not to rule out talks.
OK, so the title of this post is misleading, just as the title of the article is misleading.
What this really is is a policy dispute fissure opening between the State Department, run by Bush's tutor in foreign policy, and the neo-cons, which may or may not include Bush.
Still, I guess the title- borrowed from Bassho, applies to Rice, who evidently has learned that there are limits to being a suck-up to a screw-up, especially when the power to screw-up is immense.
Better late than never.
Update: Evidently, from this article on Iran, the Rice faction's argument is that this is the time to act with respect to direct talks on Iran.
Mr. Ahmadinejad is pursuing a risky strategy that could offer him a shot at long-term influence over the direction of the country — or ruin. He appears motivated at least in part by a recognition that relying on clerics to serve as the public face of the government has undermined the credibility of both, analysts here said.
The changing nature of Iran's domestic political landscape has potentially far-reaching implications for the United States. While Iran has adopted a confrontational approach toward the West, it has also signaled — however clumsily — a desire to mend relations. Though the content of Mr. Ahmadinejad's letter to President Bush was widely mocked here and in Washington for its religious focus and preachy tone, it played well to Iran's most conservative religious leaders. Analysts here said it represented both Mr. Ahmadinejad's independence and his position as a messenger for the system, and that the very act of reaching out was significant.
"If the U.S. had relations with Iran under the reform government, it would not have been a complete relationship," said Alireza Akhari, a retired general with the Revolutionary Guard and former deputy defense minister, referring to Mr. Khatami's administration. "But if there can be a détente now, that means the whole country is behind relations with the West."...
Mr. Ahmadinejad, who was elected last June, has adopted an ideologically flexible strategy. He has called for restoring the conservative values of the Islamic Revolution, yet at the same time has relaxed enforcement of strict Islamic social codes on the street. During the spring, when the warm weather sets in, young women are often harassed by the volunteer vigilantes known as the Basiji for their dress, but not this year. More music seems to be available in stores than in the past — small but telling changes, people here say.
No wonder the neocons are pissed; this guy Ahmadinejad- through sheer luck likely, not competence or genius- might rob the neocons of their war.