Saturday, October 25, 2008

A Step Closer to the Grand Bargain?

This piece of news is all over the place by now. The piece below is from Seattle Times, and it confirms what was reported by, among others, The Guardian (British), which in July reported that, "The US is waiting to get all its ducks in a row before going public about the interests section. The key is formal approval by the Iranian government, which has already said it would welcome the prospect." 

This should further confirm that the U.S.-Iran relations are headed for a rapprochement, or a Grand Bargain along the lines Nixon struck with China; which started with Kissinger's secret visit to Beijing in July 1971, and culminated with Nixon shaking hands with Chairman Mao during his one-week trip to China in February 1972.

Bush to seek diplomatic presence in Iran
By Warren P. Strobel
McClatchy Newspapers (Originally published October 24, 2008)

WASHINGTON — The Bush administration will announce in mid-November, after the presidential election, that it intends to establish the first U.S. diplomatic presence in Iran since the 1979-81 hostage crisis, according to senior Bush administration officials.

The proposal for an "interests section," which falls short of a full U.S. Embassy, has been conveyed in private diplomatic messages to Iran, and a search is under way to choose the American diplomat who would head the post, the officials said.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said last month that he would consider the idea, which first surfaced over the summer.
Earlier this month, an Iranian official said that Iran would refuse to allow a U.S.-based nonprofit group, the American-Iranian Council, to operate there even after it received a Treasury Department license to do so.
[In] his waning days in office, President Bush has authorized a more direct approach to Iran, sending Undersecretary of State William Burns to participate in six-nation nuclear talks with Iranian representatives in Geneva in July.

Among other things, the U.S. diplomats in Tehran would facilitate cultural exchanges; issue visas for Iranians to travel to the U.S.; and engage in public diplomacy to present a more charitable view of the U.S.
Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said in New York in July that Iran would insist on a quid pro quo for permitting a U.S. interests section: approval of its standing request for direct flights between Tehran and New York.

While some senior officials said Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice haven't made a final decision, they and others indicated that the mid-November announcement is a near-certainty.

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