No Movement on Iran Until Bush Is Replaced

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NPR Senior News Analyst Daniel Schorr says U.S. relations with Iran are stuck and not much is likely to happen until the next U.S. president takes office in January 2009.

DANIEL SCHORR: I'm reminded of 1960, when Nikita Khrushchev stormed out of the Paris summit after a U2 spy plane had been shot down over the Soviet Union. Chilly relations with the United States remained on hold, awaiting President Eisenhower's successor, who turned out to be John Kennedy.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

NPR's senior news analyst Daniel Schorr.

SCHORR: On his current European trip, his last in office, President Bush is seeking tougher sanctions against Iran for its nuclear programs. But European leaders appear to be treating him as being on a somewhat sentimental journey. Iran also acts as though it's awaiting President Bush's successor. Meanwhile, it's keeping the pressure on and shoring up its influence in Iraq as well as Lebanon and Syria. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has spent three days in Teheran, presumably asking the Iranians to back off and allow Iraq to be stabilized. Maliki is caught in a squeeze between Teheran and Washington. The Bush administration has been trying to negotiate a status-of-forces agreement legalizing the presence of U.S. troops after the United Nations mandate runs out at year's end.

Prime Minister Maliki is quoted as saying he would not allow his country to become a platform for harming the security of Iran and other neighbors. Maliki has also expressed reservations about the status-of-forces agreement, especially the provision that will give American soldiers and contractors immunity from trial in Iraq. In light of incidents involving shootings of Iraqi civilians, immunity from prosecution is a hard sell for the Iraqi people.

A State Department spokesman says Iraq is a sovereign country that's going to act in its own interests. He was referring to pressures from Iran, but that could be applied to American pressures as well. In our presidential campaign, candidates have been vying with each other in toughness on Iran. But soundbites before a pro-Israeli lobby give no real clue to what will happen come next January. Until then, the U.S. and Iran will be testing each other's mettle and, with good luck, avoiding an armed confrontation.

This is Daniel Schorr.

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