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Belmont Club

Slap in the Face

January 18th, 2012 - 12:29 pm

Iran says President Obama sent them a “secret letter” asking for direct talks. The Associated Press quoted the semiofficial Fars News Agency as saying Wednesday: “The letter also said that closing the Strait of Hormuz is (Washington’s) red line. … The first part of the letter contains threats and the second part contains an offer for dialogue.” The AP says “Obama administration officials denied there was such a letter.”

But Fox News says “Obama administration officials would not confirm whether President Obama called for direct talks with Iran, after an Iranian lawmaker claimed Wednesday that the president floated the proposal in a secret letter to the Islamic Republic’s supreme leader.” It cryptically added, “The White House acknowledged the letter and reiterated that the door remains open for Iran to return to international talks over its nuclear program.”

Whether or not the letter was actually sent, officials said that the diplomatic door remained open to Iran.  But it is significant that Iran chose to allege the existence of the letter while the Obama administration was at pains to downplay it. The message that Teheran seeks to send is that the administration is crawling on its belly to the ayatollahs. The question is whether it is.
One thing Washington may want to discuss is Iraq, where sectarian violence is up sharply.  Another AP report says that “Iraq’s Shiite-dominated Cabinet suspended boycotting Sunni-backed ministers Tuesday, an official said, deepening a sectarian conflict of politics and violence that has raised fears of civil war in Iraq now that U.S. troops are gone.” Iraqi Shi’ite militias are claiming “victory” for causing the departure of U.S. forces.

Russia has said that it would oppose tighter sanctions on Iran, as Teheran warned Saudi Arabia not to increase its oil production to compensate for the loss of Iran’s output on the world market. Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “told Israel’s parliament Monday that the current sanctions against Iran are not going to stop its nuclear program.”

That leaves the Obama administration at the Last Chance Salon, or its alcoholic equivalent, the Last Chance Saloon, to get things right.  If Teheran has seen fit to mock the president’s secret initiatives — assuming they exist — by leaking it to the newspapers, it strongly suggests that they are still not interested in whatever President Obama has to offer. The diplomatic dance between Washington and Teheran now resembles La Danse Apache.

How much longer can it go on? And who gets to play the part of Alexis and who Dorrano?


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