SAN SALVADOR — Having sent the Iranian people a video greeting on their New Year, President Obama is now inviting them to help celebrate a quintessentially American holiday, the Fourth of July.
Last Friday, the State Department sent a cable to its embassies and consulates around the world notifying them that “they may invite representatives from the government of Iran” to their Independence Day celebrations — annual receptions that typically feature hot dogs, red-white-and-blue bunting and some perfunctory remarks about the founding fathers.
They'll have to be beef hot dogs.
“It is another way of saying we are not putting barriers in the way of communicating,” said one administration official. “It is another way of signaling that there is an opportunity that should not be wasted.”
You want ketchup on that hot dog, fine; we use mustard in the US, but that should not bar us from talking.
The authorization to issue the invitations was disclosed by a senior State Department official on the eve of a three-day visit to Latin America by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the new policy was not public.
Wonder if that State Department official was Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Even as the United States reaches out to Tehran, it is trying to reclaim American influence in Latin America, where Iran has made inroads while the United States has been waging wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Bush could only think about Iraq and Afghanistan? Condi Rice?
On Monday, Mrs. Clinton was in El Salvador to attend the inauguration of Mauricio Funes, whose election as president represents the first time the country has swung to the left since its civil war ended in 1992. She will be in Honduras on Tuesday for a meeting of the Organization of American States. The United States is expected to face intense pressure from Cuba’s neighbors to reinstate the island’s membership in the group.
Mrs. Clinton has said Iran’s rising influence in the region is “quite disturbing.” In May, she told State Department employees that the Bush administration’s policy toward Latin America had created an opening for Iran and China, which are using commercial and other assistance to bolster anti-American leaders like Hugo Chávez of Venezuela and Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua.
“They are building strong economic and political connections with a lot of these leaders,” she said. “I don’t think that’s in our interest.”
Not at all, and although we do meddle in their neighborhood, it's the Middle East.
“The specter of Iran raises red flags in a way that China doesn’t, because China tends to respect the American sphere of influence,” said Julia E. Sweig, a Latin American expert at the Council on Foreign Relations.