Wednesday, May 24, 2006

So Talk Already

Iran has sent another signal that it would rather talk than fight.

Iran has followed President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s recent letter to President Bush with explicit requests for direct talks on its nuclear program, according to U.S. officials, Iranian analysts and foreign diplomats.

The eagerness for talks demonstrates a profound change in Iran’s political orthodoxy, emphatically erasing a taboo against contact with Washington that has both defined and confined Tehran’s public foreign policy for more than a quarter-century, they said.


“You know, two months ago nobody would believe that Mr. Khamenei and Mr. Ahmadinejad together would be trying to get George W. Bush to begin negotiations,” said Saeed Laylaz, a former government official and prominent analyst in Tehran. “This is a sign of changing strategy. They realize the situation is dangerous and they should not waste time, that they should reach out.”

The only people who would not see this as a positive — albeit tentative — step towards backing away from a confrontation are the people who actually want a confrontation between the two countries. And the only people who could see any possible advantage to a confrontation that could possibly go nuclear are the far-right whack-jobs in both countries.

This is a no-lose situation. Apparently the sabre-rattling of the current administration over the last few months has worked; Iran probably thinks that the Bushies would love to have another conflict to bolster their shaky poll numbers here at home, and they also know that even if the neocons have no viable plan for going to war or what they’d do once they started one, that hasn’t stopped them in the past. And they’d rather not be a part of the Republicans’ political plan for keeping the House and Senate in November.

I don’t doubt for a second that Mr. Ahmadinejad is a scary dude, and his talk about wiping Israel off the map isn’t just an exercise in speculative cartography. But apparently there are cooler heads prevailing in Tehran — at least to the point that they are willing to break the silence between the two countries at an official level, and that’s not a bad thing. It sure beats the alternative.