The US and Iranian ambassadors in Baghdad met for four hours Monday, hosted by Iraqi PM Nuri al-Maliki in his office in the Baghdad Green Zone.
This was the highest-level bilateral (trilateral) meeting between officials of Iran and the US since Washington broke diplomatic ties with Teheran in 1980, and is another sign that the Bush administration may be cautiously trying to de-escalate the tensions with Iran.
The length of today’s meeting was a welcome indicator that some serious– if still necessarily preliminary– diplomatic business got done.
In the report linked to above, Reuters’ Ross Colvin wrote that both sides afterwards described the meeting as "positive." He noted that the Iranian ambassador, Hassan Kazemi-Qomi, came out and said Tehran wanted further follow-up meetings. K-Q’s American counterpart, Ryan Crocker, was reported to be less sure about that. (Most likely he needed to check back with Washington.) The way Crocker described the meeting, he had taken the opportunity to lay out the whole series of accusations that Washington has against Iran for its "meddling" in the internal affairs of Iraq.
(Does he have any sense of irony?)
Colvin wrote that Kazemi-Qomi had criticized the effectiveness of the US program to train the Iraqi security forces, and said that Iran had offered to help in this task.
These talks came as two (nuclear-armed) US Navy carrier battle groups U.S. warships hold war games near Iran’s coast, and two days after Tehran said it had uncovered spy networks on its territory run by Washington and its allies."
The talks also, of course (though Colvin didn’t mention this) came as the region-spanning tensions over both Iran’s nuclear-engineering program and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have been running high. It is now very hard indeed to see how the US-Iraq-Iran imbroglio can be sustainably defused unless those other components of what I have called the "perfect storm" of three concurrent and linked crises in the Middle East can also be put on the path to sustainable resolution…
But still, to have these two significant governments at last apparently talking seriously about shared concerns in Iraq, rather than engaging in an open shooting war there or anywhere else, is a huge blessing for all of humankind, and especially for the long-suffering residents of Iraq and the rest of the Middle East.