Let's look back to Jan. 11, when Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice sat at the witness table in Hearing Room 106 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building explaining why "those who talk about engagement with Syria and Iran" are all wet. "That's not diplomacy -- that's extortion," she said.
The administration has already reversed course on its policy towards Syria, with Rice having engaged in direct, bilateral talks with Syria' foreign minister a few weeks ago. But direct discussions with Iran were always considered far more controversial. As far as the Bush gang is concerned, Iran needs to be isolated, not engaged. To talk to Iran is to "reward bad behavior." We've gone a quarter-century without talking to Iran, and Bush wasn't about to strike up a conversation, especially given the Ahmadinejad regime.
At least, that was the policy.
U.S. diplomats said Monday's scheduled talks with Iran will be limited to discussions about Iraq's security, and not about the unresolved issues of detained Americans in Iran or the country's nuclear program.
The meeting in Baghdad will be the first public and formal meeting between U.S. and Iranian representatives since the United States cut off diplomatic relations 27 years ago.
"The issue at hand in the meeting between [U.S. Ambassador to Iraq] Ryan Crocker and the Iranian representative ... is going to be focused on Iraq and stabilizing Iraq," U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said last week.
I don't disagree with the diplomatic decision, but it's worth noting that after years of saying talks with Iran would be reckless and irresponsible, the Bush gang is grudgingly accepting the reality that Dems have been pushing for quite a while.
Would it be rude to point out how often this has happened of late? Dems said Bush should talk directly to Syria; Bush said Dems were weak to even suggest it; and Bush eventually came around. Dems said Bush should talk to North Korea and use Clinton's Agreed Framework as a model for negotiations; Bush said this was out of the question; and Bush eventually came around. Dems said Bush should increase the size of the U.S. military; Bush said this was unnecessary; and Bush eventually came around.
And Dems said Bush should engage Iran in direct talks, particularly on Iraq. It took a while, but the president came around on this, too.
For years, all we've heard from the right is that Bush is a bold visionary when it comes to foreign policy, and Dems are weak and clueless. And yet, here we are, watching the White House embrace the Dems' approach on most of the nation's major foreign policy challenges.
Now, if Bush could just bring himself to accept the Democratic line on Iraq, too, we'd really see some progress.
-- Steve Benen