Mark, it’s very simple — you can imagine the conversation by reading both Andrew’s contributions to this discussion and Iran’s public statements to date:
U.S.: We are a great power, not boyscouts. We talked to the Soviet Union — a great power with 10,000 nuclear missiles pointed at us and our allies. We even talked to that nasty Chairman Mao, dictator of a rising super-power with over a billion citizens. So, naturally, we must talk with a pissant with no missiles pointed at us and our allies which is waging a 30-year terrorist war based on an unbending conviction that America must be destroyed. Why, even Jim Baker and Lee Hamilton say so. So, que pasa mullah minister?
Iran: Death to America, insha Allah.
U.S.: Funny you should say that. Why, on the way over here, we were just saying that our goal, ultimately, should be to hasten the end of the Iranian theocracy. So we figured, y’know, if holding talks can, however theoretically, be a potential weapon in our armory to achieve that goal, well, golly, count us in. I mean, unless you can convince us otherwise.
Iran: Well, we’d love to try to convince you otherwise, but, as you know, we see a world without America and Israel as something that is achievable in the short term. That’s why we’ve been having Hezbollah and the IRGC kill your soldiers for 30 years. That’s why we’re working on those nukes. Now, we could pretend otherwise — we could pretend that we’re here for fruitful talks aimed at a settlement. But, as you may have heard, aside from being thoroughly despicable, we’re also totally untrustworthy. Why would you believe us if we said any such thing?
U.S.: Well, we wouldn’t. And, to be honest, our purpose here is to lie, cheat and dissemble our way through the whole revolting process.
Iran: I hear you. So, lemme get this straight. You want us gone?
Iran: And we want you gone?
Iran: And you’re a great power?
Iran: And we’re nothing like the USSR and Mao’s China?
U.S.: Hah! Yeah, you could say that.
Iran: And your thing is you don’t want to have war and you want Iraq stable?
Iran: And our thing is we’ve been at war with you for decades, we’re still at war with you, we’re gonna be at war with you until you’re gone, and just you being in Iraq is reason enough for us to keep screwing with Iraq.
Iran: And you’re not gonna believe a word we say?
Iran: And we have no reason to believe a word you say?
Iran: And we’re having this conversation because …?
U.S.: Beats me. Er, no, I mean, of course … we’re having this conversation because diplomacy often involves dealing with those regimes opposed to us. Sure, that can be mucky, but so what? Refusing to recognize that fact isn’t foreign policy, it’s a hissy fit. Wouldn’t want to have a hissy fit.
Iran: OK, so you’ve recognized that fact and you’re not having a hissy fit over a few dead American troops. That, after all, is foreign policy. What now, though? What do we do for the mucky part? Why are we here?
U.S.: Er … Well, uh … this has been very helpful, don’tcha think? I mean, we’re talking, right? Talking is progress, no? Didn’t Chamberlain talk to Hitler — oh, sorry, bad example. Didn’t Carter send Brzezinski to talk to you guys — oops, another bad example. But you get my drift, right?
Iran: We sure do …