Over the weekend, Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post apparently got his hands on the official overture that Iran made to the United States back in 2003, shortly after the fall of Baghdad. Iran, apparently, was full ready to agree to safeguards on its nuclear program, work with the United States to stabilize Iraq, take "decisive action" against terrorists, end "material support" for Palestinian militias and accept a Saudi proposal for a two-state solution in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in exchange for negotiations and economic cooperation. These are the sorts of concessions U.S. diplomats would eat their hats for today.
But Bush administration officials turned it down, because they were "convinced that the Iranian government was on the verge of collapse." The war in Iraq, it seemed, made some hawks a bit too giddy for diplomacy (remember, this was back in the "Mission Accomplished" days, when neoconservatives thought Baghdad had been conquered and were dreaming of marching troops into Tehran and Damascus next). So now the administration finds itself in the present situation, in which Iran is in a strong position to make demands, the U.S. is in a much weaker position to urge a halt to its nuclear program, and negotiations are still sluggish (though certainly hopeful). Nicely done.