May 9th. 2006
The President receives a letter from the President of Iran -- the first high level contact initiated by Iran since 1979. How does the administration respond? Condoleeza Rice says that there is nothing concrete in the letter (Iranian Writes to Bush. New York Times, May 9th. 2006).
Sent to but not published in the New York Times
I expected better from Dr Rice who is, after all, a distinguished scholar of US-Soviet relations. At the time of the Cuban missile crisis, the Americans noticed that two kinds of messages were emanating from Moscow -- harsh and uncompromising letters and those with a more conciliatory tone. The analysts concluded that Hawks and Doves in the Kremlin were jockeying for and temporarily gaining positions of influence. The US responded with a subtle psychological response, reinforcing the conciliators with responses and extinguishing the influence of the hawks by ignoring their messages. The outcome was a success for world peace.
It maybe that a similar struggle is going on among the higher echelons of the Iranian government. But the US is responding with a knee jerk rejection of the overture -- there is nothing concrete here.
Nothing concrete! The very existence of the letter, however philosophical in tone, is a concrete indication that someone in Iran wants to talk. Let us seize this opportunity not reject it out of hand.
There is no hurry. The Iranian crisis has dragged on for a year or so. There is still work to be done at the United Nations to get our allies on board in the Security Council. A few more months of careful negotiation might result in a satisfactory outcome for all.