COMMENTS: Long Holiday Weekend

Happy Memorial Day! The only story that attracted coverage by a correspondent from all three networks was the diplomacy in Baghdad between the ambassadors from the United States and Iran. The four hours of talks in the Green Zone represented the first formal contacts between Washington and Teheran in 27 years. All three networks led from Baghdad--but it still did not qualify as Story of the Day. That title belonged to the observance of the holiday itself as each of the three networks gave its anchor the day off. Their substitutes were Dan Harris on ABC, Russ Mitchell on CBS and Lester Holt on NBC.

ABC's Terry McCarthy (subscription required) hailed the fact of the talks as an achievement in itself: "The one thing that did not happen was a walkout." He quoted Amb Ryan Crocker's explanation for why little progress had been made: "Among diplomats, you do not need a lot of substance to take up a lot of time." NBC's Ian Williams summed up the US' demands of Iran: that it "end support for militants" specifically the Revolutionary Guard's "arming, training and financing" of militia groups. Iran denied providing any such support.

CBS' Lara Logan sat down with Mowaffak al-Rubaie, the National Security Advisor of Iraq, to inquire whether he agreed with Amb Crocker that Iran was interfering with Iraq's internal affairs: "I am not going to blame or name any particular country," al-Rubaie demurred, so as not to "negatively influence future negotiation." For his part, Amb Hassan Kazemi "surprised both the US and Iraq," according to ABC's McCarthy, by making a counterproposal that "Iran could help train Iraqi security forces."

None of the three reporters specified the names of the anti-US militias that are supposedly operating under Teheran's guidance. From the White House, ABC's Jonathan Karl (no link) merely reported on the "near unanimous view" that Teheran could "significantly reduce the violence in Iraq" if it so desired. Karl added that a major motivation for the White House to agree to the talks was domestic politics: as senior Democrats and the Iraq Study Group make demands for diplomatic outreach, "now the administration can say that they are listening."


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