Iran Update

IRAN UPDATE….Iran is on a charm offensive. Ali Akbar Velayati, the top foreign policy advisor to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei — which makes him someone with actual authority — basically told president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Tuesday to lay off the bluster for a while and let the adults talk. He then went on to say that Iran was seriously interested in the proposal presented last month by European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana. From the LA Times:

“Americans wanted Iran not to accept Solana,” Velayati told the hard-line daily newspaper Jomhuri Islami. “Therefore our interests imply that we should embrace Solana.”

….The U.S. and Israel “are seeking a pretext to show the world that Iran does not want negotiation,” Velayati said. “We think now at this juncture, we can negotiate,” he said. “We should pay attention . . . keep on negotiating with every single European country.”

At the same time, Iran’s foreign minister told reporters that he was also warmly disposed toward the Solana proposal:

The unusually positive remarks by Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki to a small group of reporters raised hope that a negotiated solution can be found to defuse the crisis.

….During a 90-minute luncheon at Iran’s United Nations mission, Mottaki dismissed the growing speculation that Israel or the United States will strike at Iran’s nuclear facilities during President Bush’s last six months in office. He described news reports to that effect as part of a long-running campaign of “psychological warfare.”

The chance that Israel will attack Iran “is almost nil,” Mottaki said. As for a U.S. strike, he said there was little public support in this country for a new conflict. “The consequences of such an attack cannot be predicted,” he said.

Mottaki apparently also indicated that Iran would consider allowing the U.S. to establish a diplomatic presence in Tehran if we approved Iran’s request for direct flights between Tehran and New York. On the other hand, he declined to say anything specific about whether Iran was willing to halt its uranium enrichment program.

As usual, this could all mean anything or nothing. Iran has their equivalents of John Bolton and Barack Obama too, and the opacity of their politics is legendary. Still, an opening is an opening. Best to at least give it a try.