Bloggers analyze talks between Iran and the United States over Iraq, question the effectiveness of sanctions against Sudan, and retch at a new reality show about organ donation.
27 years later: The Iranian and U.S. ambassadors to Iraq met Monday to discuss the security situation in Iraq, ending a 27-year diplomatic freeze. The negotiators reportedly stayed away from sensitive issues like Iran's nuclear efforts. Bloggers wonder whether it's all wasted words.
Liberal Matthew Yglesias doubts that talks over Iraq can accomplish anything as long as the two nations are so fundamentally at odds: "Insofar as our goals in the Middle East include overthrowing the regime in Tehran and, short of regime change, doing everything possible to destroy the Iranian economy then, naturally enough, the Iranians are going to seek to thwart our goals." California liberal D-Day agrees that the United States can't just ignore everything but Iraq: "Iraq can be a launching pad for negotiations, a way to build consensus and trust so that the other issues can be brought into play, but it can't be the only issue. Otherwise the cries of 'Iran would never help the United States' become a self-fulfilling prophecy."
Liberal Middle Eastern-studies professor Juan Cole at Informed Comment argues that there's plenty Iran and the United States can agree on. Both count al-Qaida and the Baathists as enemies, and both want to see the Shiite government succeed. Cole also dismisses claims that the talks are futile: "Effective diplomacy can often lead a country to see the advantages of cooperation on some issues, so that its leaders stop sulking and actually turn to accomplishing something."
Cernig at The Newshoggers is pessimistic about cooperation with Iran: "Talking is almost always vastly preferable to bombing. However, I've a nasty feeling that these talks will, eventually, go nowhere—and will then be held up as evidence of Iiran's lack of amenablility to diplomacy by pro-war Bush administration memebers and their enablers." Joshuapundit is skeptical of Iranian offers to coordinate security efforts: "[A]fter doing their best to create chaos in Iraq, the Iranians now want to be deferred to as equal partners in any solutions!"
Self-described "radical Republican" Ronald Barbour at The Freedom Fighter's Journal doesn't take issue with the talks so much as the timing: "[I]t is flat out obscene that the talks were held on Memorial Day. There are Americans at gravesides today mourning loved ones who were cut down by Iranian-backed militias."
Read more about the talks.
Soft power: President Bush announced that the United States will step up economic sanctions on Sudan to force the country to stop the violence in Darfur. The effort will tighten regulations on roughly 100 Sudanese businesses and will single out two government officials and one rebel leader responsible for violence.
Drima, a Sudanese-born college student at The Sudanese Thinker, praises Bush's decision to include rebel leaders among the targets but has "mixed feelings": "The first sanctions imposed on Sudan since the Clinton era didn't succeed in accomplishing anything much besides making life for the average Sudanese citizen harder and more difficult. Are these new sanctions going to be any different?"
Some predict the sanctions could do more harm than good politically. Sean-Paul Kelley at The Agonist predicts the sanctions won't make "a whit of difference" in Darfur: "What they will do, however, is push Sudan further into China's orbit." At Counterterrorism Blog, Douglas Farah laments that the plan doesn't affect businesses with connections to China: "China aid and investment has become one of the most corrosive forces on the African continent, a free and almost unlimited supplies of cash for dictators, thugs and murderous regimes."
Jeff Harrell, writing at The Shape of Days, calls the sanctions another instance of "clumsy, blunt foreign policy": "[A]fter decades of non-stop war, Sudan basically has no economy anyway. Sanctions will have little effect. And an arms embargo? We've tried that trick before. Never in all of human history has an arms embargo actually restricted the supply of arms in an area of conflict. It just drives up the street price."
Read more about the new Sudan sanctions.
Renality TV: A Dutch TV network is producing a reality show in which a terminally ill woman will choose who among three contestants will receive her kidney. The network claims The Big Donor Show is supposed to spark dialogue about the country's low organ-donation rate. The show already has everyone retching, from physicians to politicians to bloggers.
Shelly at London-based Boring Black Chick thinks the program portends the end of civilization: "This makes me feel physically sick. Surely I'm not alone in this. Is nothing sacred? Are we all so numb and disconnected from ourselves and fellow human beings that matters of life and death are reduced to ratings winners?" Kerry Howley at Reason's Hit & Run doesn't find the show agreeable either: "Organ-based reality TV is sad and grotesque precisely to the extent that it caricatures typical organ allotment systems; where sick people aren't allowed to pay for something they need, they must prove themselves worthy of a gift."
Georg at Round Online is torn: "On the one hand, the idea of people competing in any type of Survivor-esque physical challenges in an effort basically to SAVE THEIR LIVES is thoroughly depressing and disturbing; on the OTHER hand, it might just be the type of terrible spectacle that's needed to make people (myself included) realize that a) those in need of organ transplants are in dire straits and can spend many years waiting for a compatible donor, and b) whatever scar your corpse gets from the operation is probably worth saving someone else's life."
Law blogger Ann Althouse figures that the show, however repulsive, might succeed at informing viewers: "The viewers are drawn into thinking deeply about the difficult decision that they are normally content to leave to experts. … The show may develop their moral thinking and make them more compassionate ... and more likely to respond to the need that the show is informing them about."
Read more about The Big Donor Show.