American officials said Tuesday that they had agreed to hold the highest-level contact with the Iranian authorities in more than two years as part of an international meeting on Iraq.
The discussions, scheduled for the next two months, are expected to include Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her Iranian and Syrian counterparts.
The announcement, first made in Baghdad and confirmed by Ms. Rice, that the United States would take part in two sets of meetings among Iraq and its neighbors, including Syria and Iran, is a shift in President Bush's avoidance of high-level contacts with the governments in Damascus and, especially, Tehran.
..."We became convinced that the Iranians were not taking us seriously," said Philip D. Zelikow, who until December was the top aide to Ms. Rice. "So we've done some things to get them to take us seriously, so now we can try diplomacy."
In a perfect world, I'd be able to admit that my fears of escalating talk about hitting Iran was all for nothing, because the wise and judicious leaders of those united states had been using their saber rattling to give themselves a better spot at the negotiating table.
Unfortunately, the current administration is much more likely to use these talks as a veneer of diplomatic respectability so that later this year, before the bombs rain over Persia, they can say, "we tried diplomacy, but all these people understand is violence, so now the brutes have forced us to exterminate them in a magnanimous show of shock and awe."
I hope that I'm wrong, though, and that this is a step, albeit small, in the right direction and away from belligerence.