"Iran is not immune"
SecState Rice has completed her visit to London and is currently in Berlin. While the themes of the inaugural address and the Iraqi elections have garnered their fair share of attention, Iran is the hot topic so far.
Questions about Iran and the policy of the U.S. towards the mullahocracy abound for the Secretary. Her best answer
"The question is simply not on the agenda at this point in time," she said. "You know, we have diplomatic means to do this. Iran is not immune to the changes that are going on in this region."
That might not be the most plainly worded statement ever given by a SecState, but for any serious student of this administration (and every Islamic leader can safely be labeled that today, I think) the hand within the glove is clearly visible. During an interview with Chancellor Schroeder the Secretary drove the point home even further:
"I really do hope the Iranians will take the opportunity that is being presented to them," she said at a news conference in Berlin.
Schroeder took it upon himself to speak for the Germans, French and English:
"On Iran it is important to note that Iran has a right to use nuclear technology for peaceable uses but under no circumstances can Iran use nuclear energy for development of weapons." Schroeder added, "Germany, France and Britain are ready to do anything to see that a political diplomatic resolution is achieved."
I am not sure what that means exactly, but it leaves them plenty of wiggle room later if they need it.
So far the Secretary looks and sounds good. Of course we'll have to wait and see how the MSM editorials in the US and EU treat her tomorrow, and France still lies in wait. We'll be following this carefully here, and look forward to your comments and recommendations of further reading.
Secretary Rice has already shown a desire to travel more than SecState Powell (not a criticism of Powell, by the way) , and even managed a joke about her intentions and the reputation Americans have for being geographically challenged, handing out atlases and telling traveling reporters "don't get lost" on the multi-city trip.
For the record, I would ask the Secretary the following:
Iran's youth show great promise as allies in the struggle to balance Islam and the modern world. What steps can the Department of State realistically take to reach out to this demographic to foster change from within?
The realm of public diplomacy is still largely unexplored in the modern information age. I am a firm believer in the "hearts and minds" method of swaying public opinion, but also think that in most cases it is too late once shots are fired. Our policy should be to spread freedom and democracy via diplomacy whenever possible, but always keeping in mind that the government exists to serve and protect the people of the United States. Diplomacy is not always accepted, and sometimes protection demands decisive action. If we can avoid that by doing our jobs better, in new and unexplored ways, so much the better. But I'll also keep the following in mind:
In the defense of our nation, a president must be a clear-eyed realist. There are limits to the smiles and scowls of diplomacy. Armies and missiles are not stopped by stiff notes of condemnation. They are held in check by strength and purpose and the promise of swift punishment. George W. Bush speech, November 19, 1999