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Thursday, July 17, 2008

Bush capitulates: US to establish 'interests section' in Tehran

London's al-Guardian reports on Thursday that President Bush has capitulated to the Iraq Study Group - and to pacifists Condoleezza Rice and Robert Gates - and will announce the opening of a US 'interests section' in Tehran over the next month.
The Guardian has learned that an announcement will be made in the next month to establish a US interests section - a halfway house to setting up a full embassy. The move will see US diplomats stationed in the country.

The news of the shift by Bush who has pursued a hawkish approach to Iran throughout his tenure comes at a critical time in US-Iranian relations. After weeks that have seen tensions rise with Israel conducting war games and Tehran carrying out long-range missile tests, a thaw appears to be under way.

The White House announced yesterday that William Burns, a senior state department official, is to be sent to Switzerland on Saturday to hear Tehran's response to a European offer aimed at resolving the nuclear standoff.


The state department has been pressing the White House for the last two years to re-establish diplomatic relations with Tehran by setting up an interest section.

The state department is keen that the move should not be interpreted as a sign of weakness.

Burns is to sit at the table with Iranian officials despite Bush repeatedly ruling out direct talks on the nuclear issue until Iran suspends its uranium enrichment programme, which is a possible first step on the way to a nuclear weapon capability.

A frequent complaint of the Iranians is that they want to deal directly with the Americans instead of its surrogates, Britain, France and Germany.
Al-Guardian sees this as Bush trying to help out McCain by undercutting Obama.
Sending Burns, who left Washington last night, to Geneva and the establishment of an interests section undercuts one of the main planks of foreign policy advocated by the Democratic presidential candidate, Barack Obama, who argues for direct negotiations with Iran.

The White House has been working in tandem over the last month with Obama's Republican rival, John McCain.
The 'interests section' would have to be approved by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but he has already said he would agree and Iran has a similar setup in Washington.

This story was actually broken by the Washington Post more than three weeks ago.

So why am I calling it 'capitulation?' Because the odds of the US approving a strike against Iran's nuclear weapons capability with its own diplomats sitting in Tehran are probably somewhere between slim and none. When the WaPo story broke three weeks ago, DEBKA noted that opening an 'interests section' would allow the Bush administration to "wash its hands" of any Israeli plan to hit Iran's nuclear facilities. Regarding sending Burns to Switzerland, DEBKA reported on Wednesday night:
Our US sources confirm that this step distances the Bush administration still further from Israel’s policy position, which calls for the curtailment of Iran’s drive for a nuclear bomb by all means, including military action. It leaves Jerusalem alone in the arena against Iran on the nuclear and other security issues, such as Hizballah, Syria and the radicalized Lebanese government.


This new White House orientation has thrust Israel to the outer edge of its Middle East policy in favor of placing its most extreme enemies at the center. Prime minister Olmert, foreign minister Tzipi Livni and defense minister Ehud Barak find their foreign policies bankrupted.

The indirect peace talks Olmert initiated with Syria through Turkey are now revealed as a smoke screen which he laid down unwittingly to cover Washington’s pursuit of a secret rapprochement with Tehran and Damascus.
If DEBKA's analysis is correct, this is not good at all.

Read the whole thing.


At 2:40 AM, Blogger Don P said...

Capitulation is right. At the end of the day, all we will accomplish is to set ourselves up for a replay of 1978-9.


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