Online Journal
Front Page 
 Special Reports
 News Media
 Elections & Voting
 Social Security
 Editors' Blog
 Reclaiming America
 The Splendid Failure of Occupation
 The Lighter Side
 The Mailbag
 Online Journal Stores
 Official Merchandise
 Join Mailing List

Commentary Last Updated: Jul 23rd, 2008 - 00:37:06

US �olive branches� aren�t what they seem
By Linda S. Heard
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Jul 23, 2008, 00:12

Email this article
 Printer friendly page

Opening the newspaper last week turned out to be a surreal experience. One day �the Great Satan� and the poster country for the �Axis of Evil� were daggers drawn as per usual and the next day US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had turned into a female version of Nelson Mandela (apologies to Mandela): All forgiveness and reconciliation. Not only was the State Department publicly mulling over whether to open a special interests section or even a US mission in Tehran for the first time since Iran�s 1979 Islamic Revolution, an almost cuddly official, William Burns, was dispatched to Geneva for face-to-face talks with his Iranian counterparts. Curious, to say the least!

Just in case we haven�t slipped into some kind of parallel universe while we were sleeping what on earth is going on?

The chronically na�ve might be tempted to believe that Washington has packed away its sabers and shrouded its deadly toys with dust covers . . . at least for now. There are those who are sincerely convinced that the neoconservative cabal responsible for the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq are losing the argument while their head honcho, Vice President Dick Cheney, is losing his influence over the last-minute legacy-seeking White House incumbent. And this soft and rosy turnabout is all thanks to Ms. Rice, who has morphed from hawk into Mary Poppins almost overnight, they say.

�We are always looking for a way to relate to the Iranian people and to make it easier for them to relate to us,� said Ms. Rice becoming warmer and fuzzier by the hour.

Problem is if those same La-La Land dwelling souls thought that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would release white doves or break into a Persian rendition of Kumbaya in response to such warm US overtures, they�ve been sorely disappointed. This is probably because Iran�s leader is probably savvy enough to recognize a scam when he sees one. He is not about to relinquish his country�s rights under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to enrich uranium just because Ms. Rice�s envoy deigns to sit down at a table with his countrymen in silence while managing to refrain from treating them as reviled pariahs. And he�s unlikely to declare, �our house is your house� and mean it in answer to the special interests or US mission proposals. Naturally, Ms. Rice is feigning utter disappointment over Iran�s response to her nation�s gnarled and calloused hand of friendship. But did she really expect the Iranians to embrace this seeming US change of heart at face value? Methinks not. Just as I read those snippets in the paper saying to myself: Hello . . . Hello . . . What do we have here then?

I would suspect members of the Iranian leadership experienced a similar reaction prior to fretting over ways to keep US diplomats safe or spooks posing as diplomats from poking around and stirring up trouble. And I can almost hear the groans of Tehran-based Swiss diplomats in whose embassy a US special interest section would probably be housed if it were, indeed, a serious proposition. During this present climate, they might as well hoist a giant bull�s eye atop their building.

In reality, America�s �hug an Iranian� announcements were put out for effect. It was a PR stunt for the benefit of the American public, which is fed up to the teeth with wars overall, and it also served as a message for the more dovish among Washington�s European partners, as well as China and Russia, along the lines of �See! We tried the diplomatic option and it hasn�t worked. There�s nothing more we can do. Now it�s up to you to get wholeheartedly on board with our plans.�

The US attempts at rapprochement with Iran last week should be viewed as nothing more than a spoonful of sugar before the medicine goes down. Indeed, the meeting in Geneva between Iran and the sextet of world powers had hardly broken up when US officials and their allies began administering unpleasant tasting cod liver oil as part of what looked like an orchestrated response.

Ms. Rice quickly cast off her sugary alter ego and reverted to type with accusations that Iran was indulging in small talk to waste time and threats of renewed US, European and UN sanctions. And, Saturday, during a visit to Israel, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown accused Iran of making �abhorrent threats toward Israel� while warning Tehran of Britain�s determination to prevent an Iranian nuclear weapons program.

To be fair, though, Washington isn�t the only player in this diplomatic game of musical chairs. Iran has toned down the rhetoric and adopted a softly, softly approach, too.

President Ahmadinejad has characterized the Geneva talks as �a step forward,� saying he would welcome direct talks with the US. He has also pronounced favorably on a possible US mission in Tehran. But, so far, he�s given absolutely nothing away when it comes to his nuclear ambitions -- whatever they may be -- apart from a few well-placed smiles. The jury is still out as to who will be left on the seat once the music finally stops.

Linda S. Heard is a British specialist writer on Middle East affairs. She welcomes feedback and can be contacted by email at

Copyright © 1998-2007 Online Journal
Email Online Journal Editor

Top of Page

Latest Headlines
Populism then and now: Independence to debt peonage, part 2
It�s our unregulated capitalism, stupid!
It�s America that�s bankrupt
Grassroots movements, global elites and political economy in times of panic
Welcome shift change ahead
Life after Bush: Forecasting peace in Palestine
One nation under capitalism: It�s time for a crucifixion
The New American Century cut short by 92 years
Betrayed by the bailout: The death of democracy
Eulogy for a nation: The bailout passes; democracy passes on . . .
101 ways to get rich without doing anything socially useful
Failure on all fronts is Bush legacy
Fight the bailout; stop the hostile takeover of the United States
Definitions: The proletariat
America, it�s time to play Monopoly!
America should listen to Ahmadinejad
Islamophobia: the pathology of paranoia
Framing the $700 billion question
Eat your cats and dogs
Wall Street welfare