As I noted earlier today (Not a Time to Be Stubborn), there may be room to open direct, one-on-one talks with Iran in order to avert further escalation of standoff currently going on between the U.S. and Iran.
Later in the day, an Iranian official claimed that opening a dialogue with the U.S. was in fact not on their agenda (Iran official says US talks not on agenda), and President Bush claims that no talks will be held until after Iran has proven that they do not have a nuclear weapons program. (No Change on Iran Talks, White House Says)
So, why the mixed message from Tehran and the rejection by Washington.
First, I think this is a very similar situation to the 1962 Cuban missile crisis. I do believe that Tehran does in fact want to open back door channels with the U.S. When nations send mixed messages like this, it is most often a signal that, while they have to remain defiant for their own political reasons, they wish to engage in talks through other means.
Second, I have no idea what is actually going on in the west wing, but if Bush is using the same tactics as he has done with every other rogue nation, there are no back channel communications going on. But this could be a huge blunder and a missed opportunity.
I will point once again to the Cuban missile crisis. If Kennedy had been stubborn and reacted like Bush is now and not read the messages coming out of Moscow properly, we would have had either nuclear missiles in Cuba, or WWIII. The neo-con, one size fits all, diplomacy that Bush likes to engage in cannot and will not work globally. Even as Ronald Reagan was calling the U.S.S.R. the evil empire, he was communicating through back door means. Unfortunately, I truly don't believe that the presidents advisors have the ability to think outside of their self imposed box, and the president does not have the intellectual capacity to understand the subtleties of diplomacy. Four years of this type of "Bush" diplomacy put us in a worse position with North Korea than when we started.
It was only after Kennedy began negotiations that a bargain could be struck. It may only be after communications with Iran begin that we can start to muttle our way out of this.