Is Rice Extending an Olive Branch?

It sure seems like Condoleezza Rice is finally ready to do the right thing about Iran:

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said today that the United States would be willing to change course and join multinational talks with Iran over its nuclear program if it suspends all nuclear activities.

Ms. Rice said that the move was meant to “give new energy” to a European effort to develop a package of incentives or potential punishments to convince Iran to rein in its nuclear program, and to give Iran a “clear choice.”

Sounds like what we’ve been calling for all along, right? Direct negotiations? Well, maybe. But before getting too effusive, this is the Bush administration we’re dealing with—a pack of lying war-mongers and all—so maybe a bit of skepticism is in order. It’s not clear that Iran should be required to “suspend all nuclear activities” before talks can even begin. Isn’t that something that the talks should work toward? Isn’t that the whole point? Isn’t Rice setting the bar too high?

So yes, it certainly seems like the Bush administration has decided to make unreasonable demands on Iran—only if you give us everything we demand will we sit down to talk—in order to sabotage negotiations before they even begin. Via Laura Rozen, Chris Nelson says that the Bush administration’s main goal is to ensure that, if talks falter, Iran is seen as the “stumbling block,” rather than the U.S. Rice’s offer might be more for appearances sake than for any meaningful attempt to avoid war.

On the other hand, who knows, maybe good sense really has broken out unexpectedly in the White House and the administration wants to resolve this peacefully. We’ll see. I should note that if the U.S. reached a détente with Iran before November, gas prices would probably go down and the Republican Party’s midterm electoral prospects would probably brighten a bit. So maybe Karl Rove and friends should think about it…