Engagement

On the heels of yesterday’s stunning announcement that a top State Department official would actually meet with Iranians, the Guardian has quite a bombshell:

The US plans to establish a diplomatic presence in Tehran for the first time in 30 years as part of a remarkable turnaround in policy by President George Bush.

The Guardian has learned that an announcement will be made in the next month to establish a US interests section – a halfway house to setting up a full embassy. The move will see US diplomats stationed in the country.

Wow.

If true this really is shocking. After nearly 8 full years of steadfastly opposing any sort of engagement with Iran Bush is going to send diplomats to Tehran? Talk about Obama defining the middle of the debate. Bush has until now defined the far right position on Iran, yet now all of a sudden he’s awfully close to Obama.

In related news of our opening with Iran, the State Department and the NBA teamed up to bring the Iranian men’s basketball team to the United States for their pre-Olympic warmup.

NEW YORK, July 15, 2008—The Basketball Federation of the Islamic Republic of Iran and its FIBA Asia Champion men’s national basketball team have been invited by the NBA, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of State, to compete against NBA teams and the NBA Development League Ambassadors over the next six days in Utah. As part of its trip, the Iranian national team will participate in the Rocky Mountain Revue presented by StoresOnline, the Utah Jazz-hosted summer league.

The Iranian national team will play four games during its stay in Utah as part of its preparation for the 2008 Olympic Games, which will be played in Beijing, China. In addition to games and scrimmages, the team will also observe NBA team practices and engage NBA and D-League players and coaches in basketball dialogue. The team will also have the opportunity to visit American cultural sites.

Not a huge deal on its own, but in the context of the last couple of days it is yet another sign of increased US engagement with Iran. Overall, this is great news both for the US and the world. Engagement with Iran is a good thing that will ease international tensions. It will make it easier to resolve the Iranian nuclear crisis, especially with the direct, high-level talks. Who knew Bush cared about his legacy so much?

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