Saturday, April 19, 2008

Direct Talks with Iran--Ambassador Thomas Pickering Comments

We now hear a new tack from the Bush administration. Ambassador Thomas Pickering, former Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs appeared on NPR's Weekend Edition Saturday today (Saturday, April 19), to comment on an announcement that plans were afoot for the United States to engage in direct face-to-face talks with Iran.

Ambassador Pickering stated that there were folks in Washington who felt that talking to Iranian officials would be "rewarding" them for bad behavior. His unusually sensible statement was that merely talking directly to a nation is not a reward, it is normal diplomacy. This is certainly going to anger Michael Ledeen, who in an attack on Barack Obama on April 10 asserted that "Talking [with Iran] has failed for 30 years," offering this quote from James Bond:

“Do you expect me talk, Goldfinger?” he asks.
“No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die.”

[Ledeen's commentary]: That’s Iran. The mullahs want us to die.

Ambassador Pickering's commentary is certainly interesting. It was slipped into the program and does not appear on the Weekend Edition Saturday web site. It may be the latest volley in the ongoing battle between pragmatists and neoconservatives on how to deal with Iran.

William O. Beeman
University of Minnesota