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Sunday, October 05, 2008

US backs off 'interests section' in Tehran

Back in July I reported that President Bush had capitulated to Condi Clueless and her State Department lackeys and had decided to open an 'interests section' in Tehran. Al-AP is now reporting that the Bush administration has decided that 'now is not the time' (Hat Tip: Hot Air).
The proposal to send U.S. diplomats to Tehran for the first time in three decades attracted great attention when it was first floated seriously over the summer but has now been placed on indefinite hold as November's election nears and Iran continues to defy demands to halt suspect nuclear activities, officials told the AP.

Two administration officials familiar with the matter spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal administration deliberations on the sensitive subject.

The officials said a decision had been made to leave the decision to the next U.S. president because it could be seen as a reward for Iran's nuclear intransigence, especially when Iran policy has become a key part of the heated campaign between Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain.


Opening an interest section, or de facto embassy, in Tehran could be interpreted as a Republican president helping a Republican nominee by neutralizing a distinction that might make the Democrat appealing. Or, it could be seen as hurting McCain by leaving him to defend a more hard-line position than the current Republican president's.


The idea's demise represents the end of any marquee efforts to remake the U.S. relationship with its most formidable Mideast adversary before President Bush leaves office.


While the Bush administration has given up on opening the interest section in its waning months in office, it has gone ahead with promoting unofficial contacts with Iran.

Late last month, the Treasury Department gave special permission to the private American-Iranian Council to open an office in Tehran. The office plans to promote educational and cultural exchanges by hosting round-table discussions and conferences.

The Princeton, N.J.-based council will join a handful of other think tanks and policy institutes that have similar licenses from the Office of Foreign Assets Control to work in Iran, which is under heavy U.S. sanctions over its nuclear program and support for groups the United States labels terrorist organizations.

The executive director of the council, Brent Lollis, expressed hope that the opening of the office would improve ties between Iranian and American academics and eventually lawmakers. He also said he hoped it could help pave the way for the opening of a U.S. interest section in Tehran.

"We are in full support of an interest section, and we hope that it will come about," he said. "This is a good beginning for that."
We don't want any American diplomats on the ground in Tehran if it becomes Ground Zero, do we?


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