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July 24, 2007

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"Face" is actually a pretty cheap price to pay. Nixon's big concession to Brezhnev was making a big P.R. deal about "parity" which boosted Russian pride (and Brezhnev's position vis-a-vis his rivals Kosygin and Podgorny). The Russians gave ground on many substantive issues to get that moment in the spotlight with the American president.

Iran the nation-state has many geopolitical and economic reasons to want friendly relations with the U.S. and the West. Ahmadinejad's faction, a truly nasty group, have their fortunes riding on keeping things bitterly hostile.

They are however, one faction among several at the top of the regime.

The Russians gave ground on many substantive issues to get that moment in the spotlight with the American president.

I think it will be the Americans giving substantive ground in this case. The Iranian strategic goal is maximizing its regional power, and being given a seat at the table - what I mean by face - by the Americans is the lever they need. By transforming themselves from axis of evil to strategic partner, they deter the Americans from constraining their actions.

Also, I think this goal is shared by all the major factions. Yes, Ahmadinejad's faction relies on anti-Americanism for their political power. But an Iranian leader doesn't need to be overtly hostile to realize that he can use his power over the situation in Iraq - even if such power is more apparent than real - to get the Americans to deal.

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