Having surrounded Iran with war and terrorist hunts -- confer Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Georgia -- the United States is openly admitting what its actions admitted long ago: America really wants Iran back in its life.
This week, the Bush administration -- the same one that's been threatening Iran for several years now -- let slip that shortly after America picks its next President a formal announcement will be made that the United States intends to open an "interests section" in Tehran.
For the first time in nearly 30 years, the US embassy in Tehran might actually have occupants other than Revolutionary Guards and getting wasted in its corridors. Yes, the doors may be opening to a new generation of American diplomats getting wasted in its corridors.
This story was barely covered by the US media and so, even as Republican Presidential candidate John McCain plows ahead with his Iran-is-the-enemy bulldozer, the American public has been left mostly oblivious to what is arguably one of the biggest milestones in US-Iran relations since the revolution itself. For Americans, the US embassy in Tehran was last known as the reason Ronald Reagan beat Jimmy Carter out of the presidency.
The US embassy in Tehran technically closed its doors on November 4th, 1979 when the infamous hostage crisis began. But it wasn't until January 20, 1981, just minutes after Ronald Reagan was sworn in as the 40th President of the United States - when the 52 American hostages were released from their embassy prison after 444 days of incarceration - that the embassy officially ceased to be associated with Americans.
But before all this, Tehran was one of the most popular US embassies for American diplomats being posted abroad. The facilities were grand (the embassy covers an area of several city blocks), the country and its people were welcoming and abundant in charm and most of all, Iran and the US were really good buddies. The unfortunate blemish of the embassy's significant role in discarding Iran's popular and democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh in 1953 was old news just before 1979 rolled around and Americans realized that a whole bunch of Iranians just didn't forget what Kermit Roosevelt and the US government did to them.
Even today, the embassy is a constant reminder to Iranians of the extravagant presence of the United States in their country. Its size is only diminished by the even bigger (and still operating) embassy of the United Kingdom. Though it's portrayed as a ghost town and its walls have been painted over with shadowy skeletal Statue of Liberty guises and other spooky threats of US hegemony, the embassy is not haunted with absence. For many years now, it has been a sort of convention center and party house where members of Iran's Revolutionary Guards or even members of its government tend to hold conferences, banquets and other fun get togethers. As before, when the Embassy was in full force, the entrants to its bounties are limited to a select group of individuals who do not represent the majority of Iranians, their attitudes and their beliefs.
The irony of all this - that the hawkish Bush administration is the one American administration in nearly 30 years that is re-opening a base in Tehran - cannot be escaped. This is the administration - more than any since the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran in January 1979 - that has threatened, sanctioned, and aggressed against Iran. Even more ironic: they are doing exactly what their opponent, Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Obama has been saying for months: diplomacy with Iran is better than war.
Like an ex-girlfriend, the Bush administration has been stalking Iran for awhile now. The regional conflicts and tensions that the US is leading in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria and Georgia are all in nations contiguous with or neighboring Iran. In 2006, the US moved into Iran's neighborhood with the establishment of the Iran Regional Presence Office in the. It was only a matter of time before the US just upped the ante and decided to move right back in with Iran itself.
Of course, as with many Bush administration announcements, this one also contains an element of dishonesty. This is not the first time that the Bush administration has reached out to Iran. Bush & Co. have been engaged in diplomatic negotiations and meetings with Iran for several years now, not least because they desperately require Iran's help with the not-so-little problem of Iraq. In some ways, the "interests section" of the United States in Tehran is not just a declaration of improved relations but a reminder to Iran that even though they broke up years ago, they've got to at least feign friendship because there's just too much history there.
Mostly though, the US really needs Iran right now: the War on Terror is rather shaping up as a shambles and Iran remains the only stable force in the region that can bring about any resolution to the rapidly deteriorating problems faced by the US. Iran already has a massive presence in Eastern Iraq and is in a position to expand that influence further. In addition, its deep cultural and religious influence on its neighbors makes it a critical strategic power in these conflicts.
For the Iranian public, the Bush administration announcement will generally be looked upon favorably: Iranians have always had a soft spot for Americans, especially in comparison to the British who are regarded as plotters in Iranian folklore. American cultural imports are an obvious element of Iranian lives - as they are in most of the world. But more than anything, Iranians still sincerely regard the United States as a unique opportunity to realize dreams.
This week, it seems, the United States admitted that it believes the same of Iran.