A tip of the diplomat's silk hat to any and all responsible for getting the United States and Iran to sit down and talk yesterday. It was the 1st formal session between the 2 since 1979, the year that the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini led an Islamic revolution marked by the ouster of Iran's Shah, invasion of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, and seizure of 52 Americans who were held hostage for more than a year. Ryan Crocker, U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, reported that he met with Hassan Kazemi Qomi, his Iranian counterpart, for about 4 hours in Baghdad, in a "businesslike" discussion of the security situation in Iraq. "We're taking this step by step," Crocker told reporters, adding that "the point of these discussions is not about U.S.-Iranian relations. It's about what can make things better in Iraq."
One hesitates to overstate the significance of this small rapprochement. Its scope was circumscribed, and there are many points of contention between the countries, among them Iran's nuclear program and its detention of scholar Halef Esfandiari and 2 other Iranian-Americans on charges of espionage. Still, yesterday's supplanting of what at times has seemed media grandstanding with serious, civil, face-to-face dialogue can only be a good thing.