As James Dobbins says, the best way to start talking to Iran is to stop not talking to Iran. In other words, if a situation arises in which American officials would ordinarily be talking to Iranian officials if the Iranian officials weren’t so Iranian, just have them talk. And that, it seems, is what we’re about to do as Hillary Clinton talks about convening an international summit on Afghanistan:
At a news conference later, Clinton said: “It is expected that Iran would be invited as a neighbor of Afghanistan.”
She described the conference as “a way to bring all the stakeholders and interested parties together” while stressing that it so far is only a proposal.
I think this is the right way to go. Spencer Ackerman reads the tea leaves a bit. But to get a bit more pointed, it’s not clear to me where this leaves Dennis Ross as a double-super secret Iran envoy. This would presumably be Richard Holbrooke’s meeting. And Ross’s public statements on dialogue with Iran have focused on secret back-channels, which is the reverse of an invitation to a big international conference.