articles like these characterizing the bush administration's decision to attend a conference with iran and syria are treating this as more of a shift than it is. the administration has attended conferences with those two countries before. for example, there was the 2004 regional conference on iraq held in sharm al-sheikh where the egyptian host tried to break the ice by seating secretary of state powell next to iranian foreign minister kamal kharazi at the official dinner.
agreeing to be at a regional conference with a lot of countries, including iran and syria is not all that big a deal. though it is a step back from the even more extreme anti-iranian and anti-syrian position bush has taken lately, it's not a complete break from what we've seen this administration do before. the real breakthrough would be if the u.s. was willing to engage iran directly. hopefully something beyond powell asking kharazi to pass the dinner rolls.