As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

US-Iran Face-To-Face Talks

The President is walking the walk from the campaign with respect to engagement with Iran.

The Obama administration said Wednesday that the United States for the first time would participate regularly with other global powers in negotiations with the Iranian government about its nuclear program.

The announcement marked a significant step toward the direct engagement with Iran that President Obama has promised. It came after the United States and five other powers — Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia — invited Iran to join a new round of talks on its nuclear program. Also on Wednesday, the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, made unusually conciliatory remarks about the United States.

Iran would welcome direct talks with the Obama administration, Mr. Ahmadinejad said in a speech, provided that the shift in American policy was “honest.” [...]

“The Iranian people would welcome a hand extended to it if the hand is truly based on honesty,” said Mr. Ahmadinejad in a speech in Isfahan on Wednesday, the Fars news agency reported.

“Yet, if it has an honest appearance but is dishonest by nature, the Iranian people would give the same response that it gave to George Bush. Therefore the change should be in action, not in words.”

Remember that Ahmadinejad is in the midst of a political campaign, one in which his chief rival is pushing from the left, as it were, and arguing for increased freedoms. My point is that Ahmadinejad wouldn't take the position of engagement at this time if he didn't think it politically popular in his country.

Meanwhile, we have evidence that such steps are popular in this country:

QUESTION: Do you think Obama administration officials should hold diplomatic talks with the leaders of Iran in the next few weeks, or should they wait to hold diplomatic talks with Iran until that country makes significant changes in its policies towards other countries?

In next few weeks: 59 percent
Only after Iran makes significant changes: 40 percent

Quite a turnaround from the saber-rattling of the Bush years, ay?

Obviously this is only a beginning. The Iranian capture and prosecution of freelance NPR and BBC journalist Roxana Saberi, shows that tensions still exist between the countries. But the hopes are higher than ever that they will be settled amicably.

This also bodes well for Obama's expressed interest in a nuclear-free world, and the best thing that could be done to support that is to pass the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty ratification through Congress. Signaling the US intention to reduce nuclear stockpiles and move the world to a goal of zero ultimately pressures every proliferator to do the same.

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