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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Analysis: Washington's Diplomatic Thaw

Council on Foreign Relations

January 4, 2008
Author: Greg Bruno

War-fueled rhetoric between Washington and Tehran has, at times, sounded more “dire prophecy” than “empty threat,” especially over the issue of nuclear weapons. On a visit to New York City in September 2007, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared Iran’s nuclear ambitions a “closed” international matter (Reuters). The bold pronouncement brought bellicose warnings from President Bush who, a month later, alluded to World War III (IHT) should Iran go nuclear.

But for all the bluster of 2007, the near-term diplomatic forecast between the two capitals is decidedly less ominous. U.S. and Iranian officials are scheduled to meet in Baghdad soon to discuss Iran’s role in Iraq’s security situation. The meeting, scheduled for December 18 but later postponed, would be the fourth round of talks (AP) between the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, and his Iranian counterpart, Hassan Kazemi Qomi. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has also sounded a conciliatory note of late. During a briefing with reporters December 21, Rice left open the possibility of holding direct talks with Iranian officials before Bush leaves office.

Washington’s courting of historical foes is not limited to Iran. In December 2007 Bush wrote a personal letter to North Korea’s Kim Jong-Il offering improved relations (IHT) if the reclusive regime comes clean on its nuclear weapons program. U.S. officials have extended feelers toward Syria, too, and laid preliminary plans for Rice to visit Libya. (She met with Libya's foreign minister, Abdel-Rahman Shalqam, for an hour in Washington on January 3). The United States has even softened its stance (TIME) on climate change after years of refusing to budge. Yet Iran may offer the starkest example of a diplomatic about-face.

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Copyright 2008 by the Council on Foreign Relations. This material is republished on GlobalSecurity.org with specific permission from the cfr.org. Reprint and republication queries for this article should be directed to cfr.org.

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