AN OPENING FROM IRAN….The letter earlier this month from Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may have been wacky, but apparently it really was intended as a diplomatic opening:

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.

….[Saeed Laylaz, a former government official and prominent analyst in Tehran] said Ali Larijani, chairman of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, passed that message to the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei….Iranian officials made similar requests through Indonesia, Kuwait and U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, Laylaz said. American intelligence analysts also say Larijani’s urgent requests for meetings with senior officials in France and Germany appear to be part of a bid for dialogue with Washington.

….The change appears rooted at least partly in Iran’s political scene, now dominated entirely by conservatives. Pillar pointed out that with reformists driven from government, conservatives no longer fear that political credit for renewing contact with Washington will accrue to a rival domestic force.

So: conservatives are fully in charge; their nuclear program gives them some negotiating leverage; they don’t want sanctions to be imposed; and the Iranian public is in favor of closer ties with the U.S. On our side, we want them to commit to ending their nuclear program; we don’t want their oil exports cut off; we desperately need more stability in the Middle East; and the Bush administration has successfully forced them to make the first move.

Sounds like there’s some basis for discussion there. It might work, it might not. But it’s foolish not to try.

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