Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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January 30, 2008
By: Kevin Drum

US AND THEM....You already knew this, but the Bush administration is nuts. Here's exhibit #3,886:

America's sometimes-freewheeling ambassador to the United Nations ran afoul of his superiors by taking part in unauthorized debate with two high-ranking Iranian officials during a conference of world leaders last week in the luxury Alpine resort of Davos, Switzerland.

Zalmay Khalilzad made an unscheduled appearance Saturday at a World Economic Forum discussion of Iran's controversial nuclear program, whose participants included Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki and Mojtaba Samare Hashemi, a top advisor to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

...."Ambassador Khalilzad's appearance with the Iranian foreign minister and presidential advisor was not authorized," said a State Department spokesman, who declined to be identified while discussing a personnel issue. He said officials would speak to Khalilzad about the infraction.

It's dumb enough that we have a policy of refusing to speak to Iran in the first place, as if merely talking to them would give us geopolitical cooties. But to repeatedly get bent out of shape by the mere possibility of an American diplomat saying a few words to an Iranian even in an unofficial setting is stark raving mad. Tell me again how many days are left until next January 20th?

Kevin Drum 12:20 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (32)

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Comments

Too many.

Posted by: steve duncan on January 30, 2008 at 12:22 PM | PERMALINK

Geopolitical cooties...gotta watch out for those. They'll kill ya.

Posted by: thisiscmt on January 30, 2008 at 12:23 PM | PERMALINK

The GWB Admin knows that it has low sales resistance, which is why it is intolerant of any talks with anyone from Iran....

Posted by: Disputo on January 30, 2008 at 12:25 PM | PERMALINK

Preventing Iran from getting nukes without going to war is a mighty big challenge. The Administration has a concept of making Iran an outsider nation unless Iran stops their nuclear development. That may not work, what's the alternative?

Posted by: ex-liberal on January 30, 2008 at 12:27 PM | PERMALINK

"Preventing Iran from getting nukes without going to war is a mighty big challenge."

No shit, Sherlock. Now, do you have anything to say on the topic of this thread or do you just want to issue mindless partisan drivel as is your usual wont?

"The Administration has a concept of making Iran an outsider nation unless Iran stops their nuclear development. That may not work"

And again, no shit, Sherlock. Of course, it won't work. And, again, it's completely irelevant to the topic of this thread.

Posted by: PaulB on January 30, 2008 at 12:31 PM | PERMALINK

This is no different than Rudolf Hess flying to Britain to have peace talks behind my back! Or Himmler trying to make a deal with the Allies while I alone am defending Berlin! Traitors one and all!

Posted by: Der Fuehrer on January 30, 2008 at 12:36 PM | PERMALINK

It's dumb enough that we have a policy of refusing to speak to Iran in the first place, as if merely talking to them would give us geopolitical cooties.

Ha... They're playing a game: it's Battlestar Galactica, the Iranians are the Cylons, and they've got to convince every American of it. And you're a traitor for ridiculing it Kevin! A traitor to President Bush and his little clique of a few hundred greedy-ass super-rich boys!!

You're threatening the "rebuilding" contracts their daddies' companies can all, uh, fulfill if Iran gives us the slightest plausible excuse to launch a regime-changing war against them.

Posted by: Swan on January 30, 2008 at 12:37 PM | PERMALINK

Wow, what a dirty dog you are, Kevin.

Posted by: Swan on January 30, 2008 at 12:38 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe Khalilzad just yelled obscenities and gave them the stink-eye all afternoon. Is that authorized?

Posted by: rusrus on January 30, 2008 at 12:41 PM | PERMALINK

Iran is really scary...and might have magic words.

Posted by: Jimm on January 30, 2008 at 12:45 PM | PERMALINK

I think they are mad, but there's method in their madness. This is setting a trap for the next administration, whether it be Democratic or the presidency of the apostate McCain. When that administration decides to talk to Iran, there will be a terrorist attack. The wingnut noise machine will then scream that it was because we "appeased" the Iranians. I know, it makes no sense but people will be terrified and vulnerable and they'll believe it, kinda like they swallowed the bullshit about Saddam being behind 9/11 and having nukes. Iraq is a similar trap. When the next president starts withdrawing troops, as he or she must, there will be a terrorist attack and withdrawal will be blamed. Count on it.

Posted by: dalloway on January 30, 2008 at 12:48 PM | PERMALINK

355 days, 10 hours...and counting.

Posted by: Linkmeister on January 30, 2008 at 12:51 PM | PERMALINK

ex-liberal posted: "Preventing Iran from getting nukes without going to war is a mighty big challenge."
Well, it would be a mighty big challenge for the Bushies. Anyone else could accomplish it by simply doing nothing.

Posted by: jeri on January 30, 2008 at 12:55 PM | PERMALINK

The Administration has a concept of making Iran an outsider nation unless Iran stops their nuclear development. That may not work, what's the alternative?

Um... talking to them? Not treating them like they are the spawn of Satan while refusing their diplomatic overtures?

Maybe if America expelled its chickenhawks as a sign of its good faith and willingness to negotiate, Iran would respond in kind.

I hear Mosul could really use some warm bodies right now to help fight the terrorists the chickenhawks helped create. Two birds with one stone right there.

Posted by: trex on January 30, 2008 at 12:55 PM | PERMALINK

Hopefully this policy will actually meaningfully change, and not just have a Democratic impramateur.

Posted by: Steve W. on January 30, 2008 at 1:07 PM | PERMALINK

Could somebody explain just what the administration is thinking when it refuses to let our diplomats even talk to Iran? Do they have even the beginning of an idea how stupid and childish that policy looks? Why don't they care?

Posted by: corpus juris on January 30, 2008 at 1:13 PM | PERMALINK

355 days 10 hours 31 minutes as of this posting.

Not that I'm keeping track or anything

Posted by: majun on January 30, 2008 at 1:27 PM | PERMALINK

355 days, 22 hours, 30 minutes.

The next President takes office at noon next Jan. 20. Gotta include those extra 12 hours.

Posted by: low-tech cyclist on January 30, 2008 at 1:29 PM | PERMALINK

20 JANUARY 2008: END OF AN ERROR

Posted by: spencer on January 30, 2008 at 1:32 PM | PERMALINK

Zalmay Khalilzad may be the only person to escape from this administration with his integrity intact. He might even have a place in the next administration.

Posted by: dbomp on January 30, 2008 at 1:39 PM | PERMALINK

Spencer take a look at the year. I think the error ends on January 20, 2009.

Posted by: corpus juris on January 30, 2008 at 1:43 PM | PERMALINK

But that's not half the lunacy!

Right wing bloggers are bleeding out there eyes because Khalilzad did not respond to a comment made by one of the panelists that Khalilzad had an advantage because his name wasn't "Bolton". They apparently think it's an affront to America and shows a "lack of testicular fortitude" on Khalilzad's behalf for not defending Bolton.

The pettiness and genuine lack of seriousness valued by the neocons (above all else, such as, you know, concrete diplomatic progress) is just astounding.

Idiocracy isn't just a movie, it's currently the governing philosophy of the Republican party.

Posted by: Augustus on January 30, 2008 at 1:55 PM | PERMALINK

Although I'm not going to even try to justify the Bush administration's Iran policies, this is pretty much a nonstarter. We don't have diplomatic relations with Iran, and the latest round of talks in UNSC isn't going to make Tehran happy. At the very least, Mottaki is trying to put off UN action until IAEA completes its assessment; the US, for its part, wants a full detailing by Tehran of its nuclear activities and a complete halt to any enrichment-related programs. At the same time, Israel is agitating for a shutdown of international trade with Iran; Iran, for its part, has actually made some conciliatory noises, linking recognition of Israel with a resolution of the Palestinian situation (the devil, as always, in the details). So the situation is, to say the least, delicate and complex.

In such an environment, having an AMB go off on his own and initiate even casual dialogue with Iranian officials is out of bounds. You may recall that Jimmy Carter had to remove Andrew Young from the same position because of his sub rosa communications with the PLO (and an attempt to hide it from State). You can also disagree with the then-extant policy of excluding the PLO from Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, but the same principles of diplomatic control apply.

Having said all that, Khalilzad's actions -- appearing in a panel discussion beside Mottaki -- isn't the same as Young's offense, but it still should have gotten advance approval.

Posted by: WatchfulBabbler on January 30, 2008 at 2:02 PM | PERMALINK

The next President takes office at noon next Jan. 20. Gotta include those extra 12 hours.

Especially since the Dim Son will forgo his usual 9 p.m. bedtime that evening to engage in an all-night pardon-a-thon.

Posted by: shortstop on January 30, 2008 at 2:22 PM | PERMALINK

Nah, he'll be too busy prying the "R"s or "H"s off the White House staff computers to sign a bunch of pardons.

Posted by: rvman on January 30, 2008 at 2:28 PM | PERMALINK

Ex-liberal's comment at 12:27 is total bullshit.

Posted by: Swan on January 30, 2008 at 2:31 PM | PERMALINK

Swan,

Change " at 12:27 is" to "s are" and you are correct.

ex-liberal is an old man who declined to serve in Vietnam allowing other people to die in his place. His guilt over this is suppressed and comes out as anger and right-wing talking points, although I suppose that is redundant. Also, his insurance business has tanked so he needs the extra cash from shilling.

Posted by: Tripp on January 30, 2008 at 3:32 PM | PERMALINK

So Khalilzad breaks the rules slightly and the State Dept. vaguely claims they'll look into it. This sounds more like the status quo on Iran breaking down than being enforced, doesn't it? Do you think the true believers in isolating Iran are happy with the response?

Posted by: Andrew on January 30, 2008 at 4:08 PM | PERMALINK

True enough, Tripp, but I think you're underestimating neocon "ex-liberal"'s interest in the security of the State of Israel. For example, the huge deterrent capability and geographical distance of the US with regard to Iran makes that country's obtaining a nuclear weapon a much lower risk to the US than it is to Israel, as a counterweight -- a deterrent, if you will -- to Israel's own nuclear force.

If an Iranian nuke is a threat to Israel's regional hegemony, maybe Israel should deal with it.

Either way, you're right that "ex-liberal" prefers others to sacrifice their blood and treasure to obtain his preferred policy goals.

That doesn't make Bush's CEO "concede everything as a precondition for negotiating" tactics any less dangerously insane, of course.

Posted by: Gregory on January 30, 2008 at 4:08 PM | PERMALINK

Good grief! You have to wonder what world that old never-ever-land-liberal inhabits.

Much as I hate this one, I'm not going to his.

But he just loves the attention no matter how stupid he looks.

Posted by: notthere on January 31, 2008 at 12:55 AM | PERMALINK

LOL. Our UN Ambassador reached this position by doing exactly and only what the Bush Admin dictated. His visit to Davos was no different, except that public here in the US was notified. And the WH had to play parent and pretend to chastise him.

Posted by: Zane on January 31, 2008 at 2:08 PM | PERMALINK

It seems no one remembers that Zalmay Khalilzad
is one of the original P.N.A.C. members.
He has been a neocon through out the whole mess, and
everything he does is a reflection of their policies.
Why bother? The Empire is crumbling.

Posted by: Myra Maines on February 13, 2008 at 8:54 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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