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U.S. Tackles Diplomacy 101 with Iran

Kaitlynn Riely

Posted: Apr 9th 2009 1:18AM

Filed under: News, Notre Dame

After eight years of President Bush's "You're either with us or you're against us" foreign policy, I'd almost forgotten the United States did diplomacy.

Diplomacy was so United Nations, so Neville Chamberlain, but now the United States is flexing its diplomatic muscles (or are we putting on our diplomatic beret?) Some members of Congress are urging the United States to improve its relations with Cuba, with which it has had a trade embargo for nearly 50 years.

The United States is even trying to talk to (gasp!) Iran, a country Bush labeled in 2002 as a member of the axis of evil. The State Department announced Wednesday that the United States will join the talks between the United Nations and European countries with Iran over Tehran's nuclear program.

In a statement Wednesday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the United States would be a full participant along with Great Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China in future negotiations with Iran. This is a departure from Bush policy, save for the one exception last July, when the former president allowed a senior U.S. diplomat to attend a meeting at which an Iranian representative was present. But The Washington Post reported that the Bush administration believed Iran was not serious in that meeting and said the effort would not be repeated.

The Post quoted a senior administration official who said "it was kind of silly that we had to walk out of the room" when the Iranians were present.

That does sound a bit silly. Talking to countries with whom you have a disagreement seems like a crazy idea, but it's so crazy it just might work...
However, diplomacy is not going that well for the United States so far. Iran has not yet accepted the offer, but the State Department has its fingers crossed.

"If Iran accepts, we hope this will be an occasion to seriously engage Iran of how to break the logjam of recent years and work in a cooperative manner to resolve the outstanding international concerns about its nuclear program," State Department spokesman Robert Wood said, according to CNN.

The United States is currently trying to get Iran to cooperate in resolving the case of Roxana Saberi, an American freelance journalist detained in Iran since January and charged with spying, as well as two other Americans believed to be missing or detained in Iran.

The United States cut off its diplomatic relations with Iran after the 1979 Islamic Revolution and hostage situation involving Americans at the U.S. embassy in Tehran. After going so long without speaking diplomatically, things are bound to be awkward at first.

Will Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran's president, say yes to President Obama's requests that the two countries begin dialogue? He said in a televised speech in Iran that his country "welcomes a hand extended to it should it really and truly be based on honesty, justice and respect," the AP reported.

The stakes are pretty high in Diplomacy 101. Let's hope the United States doesn't flunk this one.

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