Three Iranian sources — a government official and two figures close to government policymakers — tell TIME that Mottaki’s statement is reflective of a solid consensus among the regime’s foreign-policy decision makers that restoring relations with the U.S. is in Iran’s best interests…
Some Iranian leaders and officials, including President Ahmadinejad, also believe that Iran now has the opportunity to deal with Washington from a position of strength, for the first time since the 1979 revolution. The sources say that this assessment is based on a perception that the U.S. is stuck in quagmires in Iraq and Afghanistan, while Iran’s influence in the region and throughout the Muslim world is expanding. These officials see further evidence of Iran’s advantage in the difficulties the U.S. continues to encounter in winning support for U.N. tough sanctions over Iran’s nuclear program. The sources say that Iranian officials believe that to open a serious dialogue with the U.S. in these circumstances would significantly enhance Iran’s international prestige and regional influence.
And Baker wants us to play along. To punctuate the point, today Ahmadinejad announced they’re moving ahead with the nuke program. The pressure’s on Bush to talk and they know it, so they’re going to push him as hard as they can to make it as humiliating as possible to do so. Want to chat? Here are 3,000 new centrifuges. Want to negotiate? Here’s a power play to take over Lebanon. “Take the deal,” whisper the Bakerites. “Legitimize it.”
How about the Kurds? Do they want in on this deal too? Hard to say — the ISG never asked them.
The Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani has angrily rejected the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group in the United States and warned of “grave consequences” if there is any delay in deciding the fate of the oil-rich region claimed by his people.
Mr Barzani, president of the 15-year-old autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq and a staunch ally of the US, also criticised the ISG for not visiting his region, saying that was a “major shortcoming that adversely influenced the credibility of the assessment”.
Mr Barzani said the high-profile panel led by the former US secretary of state James Baker, which released its report on Wednesday, had ignored a letter he sent it outlining Kurdish views. “It seemed as if they had not read it at all,” he said.
Meanwhile, Pelosi’s intel chair can’t tell Sunnis from Shiites, which means he’s just about as well informed as some Republicans and the head of the FBI’s counterterrorism division. It’s a comfort to know our side of the aisle isn’t the only one woefully ignorant of the geopolitics of a region where we have 150,000 troops stationed.
But it’s a cold, cold comfort.
Al Qaeda is what, I asked, Sunni or Shia?
“Al Qaeda, they have both,” Reyes said. “You’re talking about predominately?”
“Sure,” I said, not knowing what else to say.
“Predominantly — probably Shiite,” he ventured.
He couldn’t have been more wrong…
And Hezbollah? I asked him. What are they?
“Hezbollah. Uh, Hezbollah…”
He laughed again, shifting in his seat.
“Why do you ask me these questions at five o’clock? Can I answer in Spanish? Do you speak Spanish?”
“Pocito,” I said—a little.
“Pocito?! “ He laughed again.
“Go ahead,” I said, talk to me about Sunnis and Shia in Spanish.
Reyes: “Well, I, uh….”
Reyes, of course, also wants 20,000 to 30,000 more troops for Iraq in a last-ditch attempt to crush the militias. There are signs that al-Maliki might finally sign off on that: a joint military task force arrested al-Sadr’s deputy in Kut yesterday and the L.A. Times is reporting that U.S. forces finally have carte blanche to stage raids in Shiite neighborhoods to search for the American soldier kidnapped last month.