Babylon & Beyond

Observations from Iraq, Iran,
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IRAQ: Sorry, I have to wash my hair that day...

January 26, 2008 | 10:03 am

Has Iran's government been reading "The Rules," the quaint guidebook that advises women seeking relationships to play hard-to-get when suitors come calling? According to Iraqi and U.S. officials, Iran is keeping them waiting as they try to arrange a date between the American ambassador and his Iranian counterpart to discuss Iraqi security issues in Baghdad.

The meeting originally was scheduled for mid-December. It never happened, something that U.S. officials attributed at the time to mere scheduling conflicts. Lately, though, the tone has changed. The U.S. ambassador, Ryan Crocker, was quoted recently as saying that the United States was eager for a date but that Iran was holding back.

Iraq's government spokesman, Ali Dabbagh, concurred with this Saturday during a meeting with journalists.

"We are waiting for the Iranians to decide" on a date, he said. "I think the Iraqi side has declared that we are ready. Americans also said they are willing to start. It looks like the Iranians are the only side which has to make up its mind."

Iraq and the United States may have a long wait ahead of them, if recent activities stemming from Iran's nuclear enrichment program are a guide. The United States is pushing for additional U.N. sanctions to press Iran to give up its program. This is no way to start a relationship, as the Iranian foreign minister noted recently.

"Being a realist … I have to say that I do not see room for the time being for the (establishment) of relations between Iran and the United States," the minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, was quoted by the Associated Press as saying Friday in Davos, Switzerland, at the World Economic Forum.
U.S. and Iranian officials have not met to discuss their shared interest in Iraq's security since last August. The next meeting would be the fourth round of talks.

Tina Susman in Baghdad