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A not very surprising 'October surprise'
You realy have to give credit where credit is due. The New York Times is pushing a story that the Obama administration will hold one on one talks with Iran after the election on their nuclear program.
Shocking, eh? Except the White House denies the story. The Iranians deny the story. And even the New York Times questions the veracity of its own article.
Why, then, was it published?
Some pure speculation follows; the Times needed a framework to discuss foreign policy in advance of the debate on Monday night -- a framework that would make Obama look statesmanlike and Romney look like a war mongering putz. The idea of talks with the Iranians - something that has been discussed for 30 years and has actually been happening in secret for that long - is a perfect illustration of how the Obama campaign and its allies in the media would like to portray the difference in outlook between their candidate and Romney.
This is a non-story from the get go. Read carefully and you'll be struck by the fact that there is nothing there; that any "agreement" to talk hasn't even been cleared with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei - a sure sign that there isn't an agreement and "US officials" quoted by the Times are either engaging in pure politics, or wishful thinking. Since there is no agreement, one must ask why the Times is running the story in the first place?
Some quotes from the article to illustrate the point:
Dramatic, huh? Not so fast:
"Nearing a diplomatic breakthrough?" How can an agreement to talk - something the Iranians have been doing for 5 years with the P+1 countries - constitute a "breakthrough" of any kind? I'd say that the Times is spinning wildly to put the best possible face on the story for the president.
A story about talks with Iran has now become a political story. And here is where we are informed that this is a non-story, that the Times doesn't have it:
It isn't just that Iran might use the talks as a stalling tactic. The reason it is impossible to negotiate with Iran is because you don't know who you are negotiating with. Khamenei, and Khomeini before him, have used the Hitlerian strategy of playing factions in his government off of one another in order to keep them divided so that they can't unite against him. It's very effective in an authoritarian regime, but makes negotiations impossible.
You may recall the case of the three American hikers who were arrested and charged with spying last year. Several times, it was believed a deal had been reached for their release, only to see prospects melt away when another faction in the Iranian government disagreed and prevented the transfer. Something similar is almost certainly at work here. Even if there is a secret deal for talks, the chances of them even taking place are minuscule. And what kind of an agreement could we expect from the talks when the Supreme Leader might not even feel bound by its tenets?
The Iranians are also denying that any talks have been agreed to:
Michael Ledeen sees more than meets the eye:
A story being pushed by the Times that suggests talks that both sides deny will happen, but that reflects well on President Obama's non-military efforts to stop the Iranian enrichment program? What a coincidence that w'e're having an election in about 2 weeks.
Indeed, the Times hits Romney hard on his Iranian positions:
They set up the war monger strawman and then bravely shoot it down by accusing Romney of wanting to go to war without negotiations. Rather than looking like someone who doesn't trust the Iranians for opposing the talks, the Times says that "it could make him look as if he is willing to risk another American war in the Middle East without exhausting alternatives." Nobody has ever said Romney wouldn't negotiate, but why should he accept this particular imaginary deal to talk, rather than seek his own agreement?
Not mentioned by the Times is the long standing US position that no talks will take place unless Iran halts its enrichment activities. Iran has repeatedly insisted that this won't happen which means either that there has been an extraordinary cave in by the Iranians, or the Obama administration has dropped that requirement. No word on this change of policy, if that's what it is. Big surprise.
In summary, the Times piece is not news; it is campaign propaganda for the Obama team. And it has guaranteed to put Romney on the defensive when it comes to Iran during the debate on Monday night.
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