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Iranian FM Dodges Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at Dinner in Manama, Bahrain

December 4, 2010

Heheh. Good for Secretary Clinton!

From Josh Rogin who is traveling with her:

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tried to speak with Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki twice on Friday, pursuing him both inside and outside the gala dinner here at the Ritz Carlton in Manama. But Mottaki deliberately avoided contact with her both times.

“If he comes to the dinner, I’ll probably see him. But he doesn’t talk to me,” Clinton told The Cable in our exclusive interview just hours before the event.

Turns out she was right. Everybody at the opening dinner for the 2010 IISS Manama Security Dialogue, where Clinton gave the speech, was watching to see if she and Mottaki would trade words. After all, they were seated only five seats apart. Clinton went out on a limb twice to try to make it happen, but the end result was only an unintelligible mutter from the Iranian leader in the general direction of the secretary.

Clinton’s first attempt came just as the dinner ended. All the leaders sitting at the head table were shaking each other’s hands. Mottaki was shaking hands with Jordan’s King Abdullah II when Clinton called out to him.

“As I was leaving and they were telling me, ‘Hurry up, you have to get to the plane,’ I got up to leave and he was sitting several seats down from me and he was shaking people’s hands, and he saw me and he stopped and began to turn away,” Clinton told reporters on the plane ride home.

“And I said, ‘Hello, minister!’ And he just turned away,” said Clinton, adding that Mottaki seemed to mutter something in Farsi but was clearly trying to avoid her.

[snip]

But that wasn’t Clinton’s only try. We’re told by a senior member of the U.S. delegation that as Clinton’s huge team moved to the door, Mottaki kept his delegation back to avoid having the two delegations converge at the door at the same time.

The next attempt by Clinton came outside the conference space, in the driveway while both leaders were waiting for their motorcades to pull up. Again, Clinton called out to Mottaki with a greeting and again, Mottaki refused to respond.

There’s a lot of buzz about this game of cat and mouse between Clinton and Mottaki here at the conference. Most observers said that Mottaki simply was not interested in making any news about a warm interaction with Clinton ahead of the negotiations. It simply would not play well for him domestically.

Several attendees speculated that Mottaki is resisting interacting with Clinton at least in part because she is a woman. Mottaki’s behavior at the press conference confirmed that he is distinctly less interested in dealing with women face to face…

Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki needs to grow up and act like a diplomat if he wants a place at the adult table. Props to Secretary Clinton for trying to reach out to him, even if just to say hello. There will be people on the right in this country- including some hawkish dems- that will probably be aghast that Secretary Clinton dared to try to talk to an Iranian diplomat but that’s what diplomacy is. One of the most self-defeating aspects of the Bush administration was their petty refusal to discuss anything with people the US opposes. Can you imagine running a company that way? By just pretending that enemies or competitors don’t exist? It’s childish in my view and Iran is acting childish.

We may never fully see eye-to-eye with Iran but preventing a full-blown nuclear program while allowing them to have a civilian nuclear program and even possibly having some form of rapprochement would ultimately be in the best interest of the U.S., Israel and the region. Is it possible? Who knows, maybe not. But props to anyone willing to try. And while Secretary Clinton is frequently described as a “hawk” on Iran, lets not forget that she made significant efforts as a Senator to NOT give Bush/Cheney and the neocons free reign to attack Iran without Congressional approval.

Keep in mind this little-known fact- Iran did help us immediately following 9/11.

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11 Comments leave one →
  1. discourseincsharpminor permalink
    December 4, 2010 3:50 pm

    The mental image of Hillary in her candy colored pantsuit chasing and scaring off the Iranian Foreign Minister is one which I find terribly amusing. I’m not laughing at the Secretary, but rather at the fool who can’t muster up the diplomatic fortitude to say hello to her. I could be wrong, but I thought a large part of diplomacy involved talking to people you don’t agree with much.

  2. December 4, 2010 4:18 pm

    I’m not making assumptions about the Iranian Minister’s actions. At any given time, there is so much going on in Iran that we have no understanding of. They still have internal battles waging with the public and within the power structure. And now we have someone attacking their nuclear program and assassinating scientists. Maybe the US has nothing to do with that, and maybe we do. I don’t know… So maybe the Minister is behaving in a sexist manner, or maybe his behavior is due to something we don’t know.

    • December 4, 2010 7:16 pm

      Yes, I am sure there is much more to it. I personally think he was probably ducking her to a) play to his domestic audience which might view his outreach (or hers) as inappropriate or weak and b) a desire not to soften their position going into the upcoming talks.

      That said, Iran has a tendency to play this cat and mouse game to the point where it becomes ludicrous- they agree to something then they backtrack. Agree to something then say they never agreed to it. They come across as erratic and disingenuous. Perhaps they have their reasons, I don’t know. But as I said above, I think much of what Iranian officials do in public is geared towards posturing for their domestic audience. I could be wrong though.

      • discourseincsharpminor permalink
        December 4, 2010 8:11 pm

        I wasn’t implying that he didn’t have his reasons, I just think the way he went about it made him look silly.

  3. December 4, 2010 7:13 pm

    This is sort of off topic- it’s about WikiLeaks and I found it interesting- a few people here, myself included, have been wondering aloud about how the media seems almost exclusively focused on a) the gossip and b) Iran when in fact there are millions of pages of documents. Some cables haven’t received as much attention- those which have Arab leaders urging restraint with Iran. Not that I think these views should be championed but rather I wish the media would stop cherry-picking cables which fit into their rather obvious meme.

    http://thinkprogress.org/2010/12/01/media-iran-ignoring-warning/

    • discourseincsharpminor permalink
      December 4, 2010 8:16 pm

      I agree. In a way, we sort of come out looking ok – a little snarky about other world leaders, but these secret cables aren’t exposing any crazy plots and such. Most of it really isn’t news. We’re helping train elite Mexican force to fight the drug cartels – no kidding. The Afghan government has issues – we knew that. I have yet to see a bombshell.

  4. MJ Musayyeb permalink
    December 5, 2010 4:38 am

    Iran defines Diplomacy differently (just like they define Terrorism differently). But there r other differences too, they r a great civilization (were a superpower for 1500 years, not just 50 years).
    Our (Shi’a) Clergy r all spiteful and cunning… But, try talking to Sistani directly, and if u succeed, then it will be easy to talk to anyone in Iran directly, and anytime u want…
    Tough Luck…

  5. SirJohn permalink
    December 5, 2010 6:17 pm

    It’s nice to see someone doing some actual fact-checking about Iran given the MSM seems to be cheerleading for a military option just like they did with Iraq:

    http://www.salon.com/news/iran/index.html?story=/politics/war_room/2010/12/05/israeli_predictions_iranian_nukes

    So at what point do we call bullshit on these claims? At one point do we demand that any discussion of the threat posed by any future Iranian nukes if they ever get them, must also involve a discussion of Israel’s over 200 nuclear weapons?

    The wiki cables show that the US believes Israel has been hyping the threat. They also show Israel threatening the US to take military action or they (Israel) will. Don’t hear too much about THAT in the NYT do we?

    Israel knows Iran will never attack them and ehud barak said as much. What Israel is worried about is losing it’s qualitative military edge in the region but that’s not a great reason for war so instead we are treated to poor translations of Iran’s claims to rid the world of Zionism and the occupiers (they didn’t say they would wipe Israel off the map). http://www.antiwar.com/orig/norouzi.php?articleid=11025

    I’m not defending Iran believe it or not. I think though that when given the crazy amount of propaganda given to us by the NYT, Washington Post, LA Times, Washington Times etc. etc. prior to the Iraq War we need to start demanding more of our media.

    Of course, most people in the US don’t know the difference between Sunni and Shia, let alone a Hazara or a Pashtun and yet they all think they know oh so much about what’s going on in the middle east.

  6. Thain permalink
    December 5, 2010 8:16 pm

    I know this is old news but the ADL smears South African anti-apartheid activists for a reason- they are covering up their own support for apartheid.

    Being on this list should be a badge of honor:

    http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2010-10-15/anti-defamation-league-list-tars-human-rights-groups/

  7. Gordafarid from Persia permalink
    December 12, 2010 5:08 am

    On behalf of all honest, hard-working Iranian young women, accept our apologies, Mrs Clinton.

    Certainly a person who is representing a country must be taught about world conventions on social etiquette. We know that most Asian men behave the same way at home and at work, but their delegates to international arenas have been trained to act NORMALLY.

    This government-supported macho attitude of Mr Mottaki is nothing but the result of being reared by narrow-minded illiterate mothers who are unable to teach their children the ability to distinguish standard socializing from immoral flirtatious behavior. Iran will be freed from aliens after Iranian mothers start bringing up non-sexist, unbiased, balanced honest individuals.

    For more insight about these illiterate mothers you can refer to that famous movie,” Never without my daughter” in which “Betty” is entangled in the webs of this sexist fundamentalist family system.

    This is something that happened around 1400 years back in Iran and before that, the ancient land of Persia was witnessed to many heroines like “Gordafarid” who were wise and courageous enough to be the center of decision making for the whole empire.

  8. June 22, 2013 10:33 am

    It’s nice that other countries are willing to help the us out in times of crisis.

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