How serious is Iran about talking to the United States?

Ed Lasky
When I first read that the State Department was sending  William Burns, under secretary of state for political affairs, to attend a meeting with the European Unions' policy chief and Iran's nuclear negotiator, I wondered if this might redound to the benefit of Barack Obama who has advocated outreach towards Iran.

The risk was that he cam claim that George Bush was now following the Obama policy. However, as I gave the news more consideration, I realized that Barack Obama might be the one who pays the price, politically speaking, for this meeting.

For years, we have heard liberal critics castigate Bush for refusing to extend diplomatic outreach to Iran (in fact, there has been contact). Barack Obama has made this a plank of his foreign policy program. Others have rebutted this criticism by pointing out  that our allies have been meeting with the Iranians for years-to no avail-during which Iran continued to sponsor violence throughout the region and continued on the road to becoming a nuclear armed nation. 

Now, by sending a high level State Department official to this meeting, is the Bush Administration putting not just the Iranians to the test but also Barack Obama's judgment?  

Scenario: America has listened to its critics and has sent a State Department employee to meet with the Iranians. If Burns is met with the same obfuscation and obstructions as have the Europeans, Obama's plan to defuse the Iranian nuclear threat via American diplomacy, suddenly has less credibility.

Rick Moran adds:

Ed is correct that we have had meeting with the Iranians before, most notably in multi-lateral talks on Iraq security. And Ambassador Crocker has met with Iranian officials several times.

But this is the first time we will be meeting with the Iranians explicitly to discuss their nuclear program. Not only will it be interesting to see about Obama's judgment but also we will discover if there is any give at all in the Iranian position that they will not suspend their enrichment activities prior to direct negotiations with the United States.

This is the redline the Administration has laid down. This is the requirement demanded by the UN Security Council. It is the reason there are sanctions on Iran in the first place. As long as the Iranians continue to defy the will of the United Nations and produce enriched uranium there will be sanctions. And there will be no negotiations with the US at any level higher than this one.
When I first read that the State Department was sending  William Burns, under secretary of state for political affairs, to attend a meeting with the European Unions' policy chief and Iran's nuclear negotiator, I wondered if this might redound to the benefit of Barack Obama who has advocated outreach towards Iran.

The risk was that he cam claim that George Bush was now following the Obama policy. However, as I gave the news more consideration, I realized that Barack Obama might be the one who pays the price, politically speaking, for this meeting.

For years, we have heard liberal critics castigate Bush for refusing to extend diplomatic outreach to Iran (in fact, there has been contact). Barack Obama has made this a plank of his foreign policy program. Others have rebutted this criticism by pointing out  that our allies have been meeting with the Iranians for years-to no avail-during which Iran continued to sponsor violence throughout the region and continued on the road to becoming a nuclear armed nation. 

Now, by sending a high level State Department official to this meeting, is the Bush Administration putting not just the Iranians to the test but also Barack Obama's judgment?  

Scenario: America has listened to its critics and has sent a State Department employee to meet with the Iranians. If Burns is met with the same obfuscation and obstructions as have the Europeans, Obama's plan to defuse the Iranian nuclear threat via American diplomacy, suddenly has less credibility.

Rick Moran adds:

Ed is correct that we have had meeting with the Iranians before, most notably in multi-lateral talks on Iraq security. And Ambassador Crocker has met with Iranian officials several times.

But this is the first time we will be meeting with the Iranians explicitly to discuss their nuclear program. Not only will it be interesting to see about Obama's judgment but also we will discover if there is any give at all in the Iranian position that they will not suspend their enrichment activities prior to direct negotiations with the United States.

This is the redline the Administration has laid down. This is the requirement demanded by the UN Security Council. It is the reason there are sanctions on Iran in the first place. As long as the Iranians continue to defy the will of the United Nations and produce enriched uranium there will be sanctions. And there will be no negotiations with the US at any level higher than this one.