Middle East Notes and Comment: The Silent Treatment
December 14, 2006
Of the 79 recommendations of the Iraq Study Group report that came out recently, the one that got the most attention—even before the report’s release — was the recommendation that the U.S. government talk with Iran and Syria. That recommendation has also met with broad approval in the Arab world, not so much out of affection for the two countries but out of a conviction that dialogue will yield better outcomes than an effort at isolation. Indeed, the Gulf governments’ response to more strident voices in Tehran over the last 18 months has not been a 1980s-style isolation policy by those governments. Instead, Gulf Arab governments have stressed dialogue and mutual security, much as they did during the Khatami period of the late 1990s. Dialogue, these governments suggest, relieves tensions and builds common interests, despite deep distrust and clashing strategic objectives across the Gulf.