WE STAND READY
FOR A DIALOGUE
IN JULY 1998, halfway through Albright's difficult second year in office, a group of Iranian athletes arrived in New York to take part in the Goodwill Games, a made-for-TV event sponsored by Ted Turner that was similar to the Olympics. Their arrival attracted little notice because by that time the American public was becoming used to the idea of cultural and athletic exchanges with Iran. But only a week earlier, the Iranians had announced cancellation of their participation in the Goodwill Games. They were unwilling to undergo the same undignified treatment that had confronted Iranian wrestlers in Chicago a few months earlier--fingerprinting and other security checks by U.S. immigration officials, required because Iran is on the State Department's list of nations that sponsor international terrorism. A seventy-five-year-old scholar of Persian poetry, arriving in the United States shortly before the games, got the same treatment.
Albright didn't want the Iranian athletes to cancel. She was trying to manage one of the most creative and challenging diplomatic initiatives of her tenure, a rapprochement with Iran. The United States has not had diplomatic relations with Iran since 1979; except at the United Nations, officials of the two countries had virtually no direct contact. Under such circumstances, conventional diplomatic techniques such as meetings with ambassadors and exchanges of visits were not available. To reach out to the Iranians, Albright was required to send indirect signals through unconventional channels