Our Friends the Iranians

CNN’s Christiane Amanpour recently met with a “top government official” of Iran–identity, unfortunately, unknown–and reports that Iranian officials, at least those who don’t dare divulge their identities, are hungry for good relations with the U.S.:

“Natural allies,” this official said.
It was a surprising choice of words considering the barbs Washington and Tehran have been trading of late.
“We are not after conflict. We are not after crisis. We are not after war,” said this official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “But we don’t know whether the same is true in the U.S. or not. If the same is true on the U.S. side, the first step must be to end this vicious cycle that can lead to dangerous action — war.”

This anonymous, but presumably very powerful, Iranian assured Ms. Amanpour that the desire for peace with the U.S. goes to the very top of the Iranian hierarchy:

He confided that what he was telling me was not shared by all in the Iranian government, but it was endorsed so high up in the religious leadership that he felt confident spelling out the rationale.
“This view is not off the streets. It’s not the reformist view and it’s not even the view of the whole government,” he replied.
But he insisted he was describing the thinking at the highest levels of the religious leadership — the center of decision-making power in Iran.
I asked whether he meant Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei himself.
“Yes,” he said.

Amanpour’s breathless report implies that only the belligerence of the President Bush, who unaccountably included Iran in the “Axis of Evil,” frustrates a full alliance between these nations, both of whom, she says, are bitterly opposed to al Qaeda.
Many others, of course, believe that top al Qaeda leaders are now inside Iran. And it is not hard to argue that from 1979 to the present, the foreign power that has most consistently been at war with the U.S. is Iran. Further, what are we to make of the claim that Ayatollah Khamenei considers his country to be a “natural ally” of the U.S.?
Not long ago, Khamanei was singing a distinctly different tune:

He has repeatedly denounced the idea of talks with the United States. During and after the US-led war on Iraq, he was sharply critical of Washington’s policies.
When pro-reform students rioted in June 2003, Ayatollah Khamenei was quick to warn that such actions would not be tolerated. And he blamed the US for stirring up the trouble.
“Leaders do not have the right to have any pity whatsoever for the mercenaries of the enemy,” he said in a broadcast speech.
Ayatollah Khamenei has consistently backed the supervisory role of the conservative Guardian Council.

Hey, maybe he just changed his mind. Two possibilities are more likely, however. One is that some anonymous Iranian functionary bamboozled Amanpour as part of a disinformation campaign designed to weaken support for the Bush administration’s effort to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power. The other is that events since 2003 have convinced Khamenei that his policy of confrontation with the U.S. is unwise, and he would be better advised to seek an accommodation.
In either event, CNN seems to have missed the real story by serving as a conduit for Iranian propaganda.
UPDATE: Blog of the Week–only I think it’s been a month now–Jules Crittenden goes after the story with more creative style than I mustered:

Christiane Amanpour has reached a stage in her career, an eminence, where she does not simply report news


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