What was touted as the Bush administration's attempt at diplomatic strides in Iraq and with Iran slid to the status of non-event this past weekend.
The Bush administration was under increasing Congressional pressure to seek more diplomatic solutions in Iraq and in its approach to Iran. With concerns over a possible US attack on Iran growing, Condoleezza Rice took the opportunity in her Feb 27th testimony before the Senate Appropriations Committee to proclaim (in a "hey, check out our diplomacy" style) that the US will come to the table with Iraq, Iran and Syria.
The United States and the Iraqi government are launching a new diplomaticThe bipartisan Iraq Study Group in December recommended U.S. dialogue with Iran and Syria, but until now the administration has refused that course of action. This statement by Rice was specifically designed to suggest the administration's coming into alignment with those recommendations. Clearly, the administration needed to find a bone to toss to the Committee with the increasing possibility of a Congressional stranglehold on Bush's war in Iraq.
initiative to invite Iran and Syria to a "neighbors meeting" on stabilizing
Iraq, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said.
We knew this would be an envoy style meeting, however, it hardly delivered on the expectations Rice intentionally built. Perhaps she was somehow aware that the actual meeting would be story-non-grata in the mainstream media. Rice's statements and surrounding buzz was ablaze as a top of the news story, but what happens when this praised event occurs? --- It came and went on Saturday - even with some fairly startling exchanges - garnering the media attention one might expect to see for a county fair.
The meeting began with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki making his opening remarks. "Iraq does not allow itself to intrude on others' affairs, or its territory to be a launching pad for attacks against others." Powerful, and one might add, quite news-worthy comments. If Maliki is driven by the desire to stabilize Iraq and to see to the majority will of the Iraqi people, that statement was evidence of it. We can reasonably expect Iraq would not appreciate being used by the US as the rational for launching an attack against Iran. It would appear that is precisely what is being orchestrated here. Those decisions may not yet be final, but the rational is being clearly established.
The U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad was seated at one end and Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari at the other. Khalilzad used his opening remarks, not as a single opportunity to announce in this forum that all parties should seek to ease tensions in the region, but instead as another platform to openly criticize Iran and Syria. He said Iraq's neighbors could be considered allies of Iraq only if they halted the flow of fighters, weapons "and other lethal support to militias and other illegal armed groups," That statement is not completely without merit, but it is a far cry from the diplomatic hope woefully disseminated by Rice and the White House.
There is to be another "higher level" meeting again in April. I expect we will, once again see plenty of "pre-summit" pontificating, promotion --- and very little diplomatic delivery.
Bush, Condoleezza Rice, Maliki, Iraq, Iran, Syria, diplomacy, Senate Appropriations, war, weapons, militia, terrorism, neighbors meeting, administration, White House