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