President Barack Obama makes a video for the Iranian government and people, saying, “Happy New Year, guys. I’m willing to talk if you’re willing to change your behavior.”
The Iranian government says, “Thanks, but we’re kind of busy organizing an Af-Pak summit of our own. Oh, and by the way, Syria’s still our friend, and no, we won’t forego domestic uranium enrichment, especially if it’s that loser, Gordon Brown, who asks us to. Anyway, thanks again for the New Year’s wishes. When you’re ready to actually change some policies of your own, you know where to find us.”
Of note is that the Obama video made front-page news Stateside, where it was hailed as a public diplomacy stroke of genius. The only mention I found of it in the Iranian English-language press, on the other hand, was on the decidedly Westward-oriented Press TV. As far as Fars, IRNA and ISNA were concerned, it didn’t even happen.
Still, convincing the domestic audience is part of generating the political will necessary for real diplomacy, so that’s not necessarily as cynical as it seems. And despite the public posturing on both sides, you get the feeling that the longer these kinds of feelers are put out, the more likely they’ll actually lead to something.
Meanwhile, Stephen Walt responds to Dan Drezner, explaining in much the same vein as I did why a nuclear weapons capacity might be less attractive to Iran than a pre-nuclear deterrent.