Ms. Rice was in Egypt this week to attend a regional conference on Iraq. Also present were the foreign ministers of Syria and Iran, the first of whom, Walid al-Moallem, has been implicated by a U.N. investigation in the assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. But that didn’t deter Ms. Rice from parleying with Mr. Moallem privately on Thursday, leaving one to wonder why the White House bothered to denounce House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Damascus last month as a “really bad idea.”
But the Moallem meeting was just an hors d’oeuvre to Ms. Rice’s main course: A “social” encounter with Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki. According to press accounts, Ms. Rice planned to approach Mr. Mottaki at a diplomatic dinner Thursday night after exchanging pleasantries with him earlier in the conference. Surprise, surprise: By the time Ms. Rice arrived at the dinner, Mr. Mottaki had already left the hall without touching his food, on the excuse that he’d been offended by the dress of one of the evening’s entertainers.
This isn’t the first time a U.S. effort to engage Iran diplomatically has ended in a snub: Just ask Bill Clinton. At the U.N.’s Millennium Summit in September 2000, the President was scheduled “accidentally” to bump into his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Khatami in the U.N. hallway. But Mr. Khatami never showed up, leaving the President of the United States to wander the corridor like a jilted date.
There’s a pattern here. Contrary to the view that Iran is just another “status quo” power seeking to have its interests recognized by the U.S., the mullahs have consistently rebuffed every American attempt to engage them diplomatically. Typically, Mr. Mottaki took the opportunity of the conference to blame the U.S. for the “continuation and increase in terrorist attacks in Iraq” — as if Iranian-made IEDs had nothing to do with that. Ms. Rice is trying too hard to negotiate with people who only have contempt for her — and America.