Why Does Diplomacy Matter? While The U.S. Talks Tough, Iran Hopes To Increase Influence Via Summit With Iraq And Syria
Iran has invited the Iraqi and Syrian presidents to Tehran for a weekend summit with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to hash out ways to cooperate in curbing the runaway violence that has taken Iraq to the verge of civil war and threatens to spread through the region.
Instead of the U.S. taking a lead diplomatic role in bringing peace to the region -- a move supported just a few days ago by British Prime Minister Tony Blair -- it is instead allowing Iran to flex its muscles as a influential power broker in the region.
The initial U.S. reaction can't help matter. It's a variation of staying the course -- we don't talk to "Axis of Evil" members and their friends. The Los Angeles Times called the U.S. attitude "skeptical nonchalance."
Instead of diplomacy, the U.S. once again talked tough -- a strategy that hasn't worked well since the Bush Administration came to power.
State Department Deputy Tom Casey said, "while there have been positive statements from the Iranian government about wishing to play a positive role in Iraq, those statements haven't been backed up by actions." He offered a similar assessment of Syria, saying the problem "is not what they say; the problem is what they do. ... What we would like to see the Syrians do is take actions to, among other things, prevent foreign fighters from coming across the border into Iraq."
In addition to being undiplomatic, is Casey correct on the issue of "foreign fighters?" A report last year from the Washington-based Center for Strategic International Studies found that of the estimated 30,000 insurgents, only 4%-10% were foreign fighters. That finding was confirmed, at least anecdotally, by U.S. Army commanders in Iraq, in interviews last year with the Telegraph of London. And if the U.S. is going to blast countries for not preventing foreign fighters from going to Iraq, where's the condemnation of Saudi Arabia?
As the Times editorial noted: "President Bush need not wait for the release of (the James Baker-led) commission report to convene a conference and invite all of the key players in Iraq's future: Iraq, Iran, Syria, Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, as well as representatives of the Gulf Coordination Council, the European Union and the U.N. Agreeing on a mutual duty to respect and uphold Iraq's territorial integrity would be the first goal. If the United States fails to act, diplomacy delayed may become diplomacy derailed."