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Preparing To Read Lolita In Tehran?

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is floating the idea of opening a “special interest” office in Tehran. Basically it would handle the non-diplomatic tasks of a foreign outpost, like visa processing. But its actual value would be to wade a toe into the waters of diplomatic recognition — presumably conditioned on changed behavior from the Iranian regime. The Daily Telegraph:

Miss Rice was said to be intrigued by the idea and defended it on pragmatic grounds. “We know that it’s difficult for Iranians sometimes to get to Dubai,” she said. “We want more Iranians visiting the United States. We are determined to reach out to the Iranian people.”

And, honestly, credit where due. In the hands of a responsible administration, a move like this would be an opening diplomatic ante. Increased transparency on the nuclear issue and cooperation in Iraq, such an administration would say, will be duly rewarded by similar carrots on the road to the new relationship you asked for in 2003. But remember: all these steps are easily reversible. Up to you now.

Rice is going to take hits for doing this. The dumber-please corner of the unindicted co-consipiratorsphere will probably imply that she’s selling out the Iranian people to a brutal regime and otherwise pretend it cares about human rights in Iran in order to, you know, kill Iranians. So figure her line about the special-interest office “reaching out” to the Iranian people is an attempt to anticipate and undermine that objection. And who knows: maybe Rice is being cynical, maybe she’s being sincere, but she’s out of work in six months anyway. We’ll see what the office actually becomes. The Iranians will doubtlessly assume all its employees are CIA.

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