WAS IRAN READY TO DEAL?….Via Dan Drezner, the Financial Times reports that Iran wanted to open talks with us nearly a year ago but nobody in the Bush administration wanted to follow up:

What has become known in diplomatic circles as Iran’s “grand bargain” was first communicated to the US State Department through the “Swiss channel” on May 4 last year.

….Under the plan, Iran would address US concerns over nuclear weapons and terrorism, co-ordinate policy on Iraq and consider a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In return, Iran expected a lifting of sanctions, recognition of its security interests, dropping of “regime change” from the official US lexicon and eventual re-establishment of relations. “There was a lot of detail to be worked out,” said one American familiar with the proposal. “They proposed concrete steps on how to work on this. The substance of the agenda was pretty reasonable.”

However, Washington has given no formal response to the offer. Instead, the Swiss foreign ministry received a rebuke from the US for “overstepping” its mandate.

This is inexplicable, at least from any sane point of view. Why wouldn’t you talk? The talks might not work out, of course, but there’s no harm in trying.

Unless, of course, you don’t really want a deal. In Iraq, Hans Blix says “he couldn’t escape the feeling that the inspectors’ work was meant to merely fill time until the U.S. military was ready.” In North Korea, several people I’ve talked to recently say that it’s almost a certainty that the Koreans are willing to make a reasonable deal if we’re willing on our side. And now it turns out that the Iranians might very well have been willing to deal too.

Negotiation doesn’t mean appeasement. It means negotiation. It’s only appeasement if you give up something you shouldn’t and don’t get anything in return. What part of this doesn’t the Bush administration understand?

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