The message is unclear on the part of London and Washington on the one hand, and Iran and Syria on the other. After the world media on Monday hailed what it described as a change of policy by Washington, Ahmadinejad said he was open to dialogue with the US under certain conditions.
George W Bush, too, said he was open to new ideas: “I believe that it’s important for us to succeed in Iraq, not only for our security, but for the security of the Middle East and that I’m looking forward to interesting ideas.” Words which the media immediately interpreted as a possible invitation to dialogue aimed at Syria and Iran as Washington reviews its policies in Iraq. But minutes later, in the very same interview, Bush put an end to such speculation: “We have made it very clear, our position regarding Iran hasn’t changed.”
Confusion also started in London where prime minister Tony Blair gave the impression he was opting for a change of strategy. But here again, if the first part of his speech could suggest this, what followed was unequivocal: “A major part of the answer to Iraq lies not in Iraq itself but outside it, in the whole of the region. This is what I call a whole Middle East strategy,” said Blair. “And there is a fundamental misunderstanding that this is about changing policy on Syria and Iran.”
Minutes later, there was no doubt over London’s stance: “We offer Iran a clear strategic choice. They help the Middle East peace process, not hinder it, they stop supporting terrorism in Lebanon or Iraq, or alternatively, they face the consequence of not doing so: isolation.”
Syria, which Washington has accused of letting fighters and weapons cross the border into Iraq, has said it welcomes the suggestion that the US seek its help to stabilise Iraq, adding that it’s waiting to see whether Washington will open the way for talks.