While the State Department has not posted Secretary Rice's full comments in Berlin today, we will rely on the New York Times for an overview to explore where US foreign policy is moving, and the German response.
We do have a NYT summary of her comments regarding Iran (#2 on the Axis of Evil from President Bush's 2002 State of the Union speech):
"...she listed a series of grievances the United States has against Iran, including a poor record on human rights, its suspected nuclear arms program and accusations that it supports militant groups that carry out attacks on civilians and oppose the Israeli-Palestinian peace process."
Breaking these down, the US position on Iran is influenced by Iran's:
- human rights abuses
- nuclear arms program
- support of terrorism
- involvement with Iraqi insurgents
- and opposition to any peace with Israel
All good and valid points of American concern. The troubling part of reading the NYT for coverage are quotes like this:
"President Bush's State of the Union message, which declared that the United States would support efforts by the Iranian people to bring about greater democracy in their country, stirred renewed anxiety in many countries that the Bush administration would seek a violent overthrow of the Tehran government.
Many European commentators, going further, have said that such bellicose talk would undercut the efforts by Britain, France and Germany to negotiate a dismantling of Iran's suspected nuclear weapons program.
Let me summarize the above shocking text: President Bush supports "greater democracy" through Iranian suffrage and self-determination. This is considered by "European commentators" (and also NYT reporters?) to be "bellicose talk" because it disrupts the nice teas planned by the French for the Iranian mullahs at the Quai d'Orsay. The Europeans have been working on their approach since mid 2003. A year and a half later the Iranians are vowing not to give up their nuclear program and appear to be buying more time, while the US has its hands full in Iraq.
Secretary Rice is stopping in all three countries that are a part of the European effort to get Iran to give up their nuclear program on her current trip. My guess is she is laying out the American position, that we will not allow a nuclear armed Iran, privately to the foreign ministries of the UK, Germany and France.
The German response, from the unpopular Gerhard Shroeder, appears to be doublespeak:
In his comments today, however, Chancellor Schröder dismissed the idea that talk of bringing about democracy in Iran was unhealthy or damaging to negotiations with Iran on nuclear matters. "Not at all," he said with a laugh, when the question was raised at his news conference. "No, no, absolutely not."
Mr. Schröder then said he had "listened to the president's address very eagerly" and "taken from it that his heart is very keenly with the democrats, irrespective of what country we're talking about."
"I couldn't agree more actually," he said. But Mr. Schröder added carefully that there should be a discussion about what "tools" would be used to achieve reform in Iran."
Chancellor Schroeder leaves behind a valuable clue. He said that Mr. Bush is "keenly with the democrats". He could have but did not say that Mr. Bush is for "democracy", but rather "democrats, irrespective of what country we're talking about." This sounds like Secretary Rice laid out Regime Change From Within as the diplomatic tool the US is speaking about with respect to Iran. Chancellor Schroeder is interested in removing "tools" at the West's disposal even after a year and a half of failed diplomacy with Iran. No wonder the Europeans are not getting anywhere with Iran.