While Dick Cheney is in Georgia and the Ukraine jabbing needles in the eye of the Russian bear with promises to both of NATO membership (as if an unpopular lame-duck vice president can remotely deliver on his promise), Condi Rice is playing a different tune in Libya. For the first time in 55 years, an American secretary of state is visiting that country and its leader:
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi — once reviled as a “mad dog” by a U.S. president — on Friday on a historic visit which she said proved that Washington had no permanent enemies. Rice’s trip…is intended to end decades of enmity,
Her words were not just meant to be heard by Gaddafi, her interlocutor. They were also meant to waft 2,000 miles to the east to Persian ears, if they were sharp enough to hear them:
“This demonstrates that the U.S. doesn’t have permanent enemies,” Rice said of her visit.
“It demonstrates that when countries are prepared to make strategic changes in direction, the United States is prepared to respond. Quite frankly I never thought I would be visiting Libya and so it is quite something,” she said.
Clearly, Rice and the realists in the Bush Administration are trying to make Libya a test case for what could happen should Iran moderate its own stance regarding its nuclear program. She’s sending clear signals that she’s prepared to negotiate an end to the enmity that has ruled the U.S.-Iran relationship since 1979. One only wishes a U.S. secretary of state had taken this bull by the horns in 2003 when the then-Iranian president had offered to end the stalemate in relations between the two countries. Sometimes in international relations you can’t go back once you’ve lost the moment.
One also wonders how Condi proposes to persuade the Iranians of her good faith when they hear practically every other day that Israel is planning to take out its nuclear facilities. Iran looks on Israel as little more than a U.S. client state, so it would be nice if a firmer signal would be sent that Bush had called off the “dogs” and hawks in the IDF who are eager to ride the Persian tiger.