More Iranian Overtures?

| Tue May. 30, 2006 1:49 PM PDT

This theme is starting to get repetitive, but okay. A while ago, after Iran announced that it had successfully enriched uranium on an industrial scale, one Iranian analyst had this to say:

Saeed Laylaz, a political analyst in Tehran, said he expects Tuesday's political fanfare will soon be followed by another announcement suspending all enrichment activities, as requested by the IAEA. Such a move, Laylaz said, would be a savvy way for all sides to save face and avoid escalating the crisis.

"They wanted this big ceremony to show that nuclear technology is not a goal - it's an achievement. This is enough, and now we can go back to negotiations," he said. That prediction seemed sort of outlandish, but now the New York Times reports this:

After boasting last month that it had joined the "nuclear club" by successfully enriching uranium on an industrial scale — and portraying its action as irreversible — Iran appears to have slowed its drive to produce nuclear fuel, according to European diplomats who have reviewed reports from inspectors inside the country.

The diplomats say the slowdown may be part of a deliberate Iranian strategy to lower the temperature of its standoff with the West over its nuclear program, and perhaps to create an opening for Washington to join the negotiations directly — something President Bush has so far refused to do.
An opening? Maybe there was something to Saeed Laylaz's prediction after all. Why not find out? Last week the Times reported that at least some members of the Bush administration were thinking about doing the right thing and at least trying to talk to Iran. That would make sense, seeing as how President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has made some (admittedly rather circumlocutory) overtures in that direction, and seeing as how back in 2003, as Gareth Porter has recently reported, Iran was very interested in putting its nuclear program on the back-burner and agreeing to other U.S. demands in exchange for various security guarantees.

But hard-liners in the administration—Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld in particular—said "no" back then, and they seem to be saying "no" now (they now insist that the slowdown in enrichment is merely a "tactical ploy," whatever that means). At this point, we can say that if there's a war with Iran it will be because Iran hawks choose to go to war, not because it's necessary. At the risk of sounding like a seriously busted record, there are no excuses not to at least try and avert what would be a horrible idea.

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