A rare mild spot of good news from the Middle East:

The United States and Iran have agreed in principle for the first time to one-on-one negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program, according to Obama administration officials, setting the stage for what could be a last-ditch diplomatic effort to avert a military strike on Iran.

This, to me, is one of the most important issues in this election. While President Obama’s Iranian policy has been vicious—Iran’s economy is largely destroyed, oil exports are plunging, and critical medicine shortages are cropping up—he has shown a marked reluctance for another ground conflict. Romney, on the other hand, is the candidate of omni-directional belligerence. His speeches—the one area where he doesn’t pander to everything in sight—are hyper-aggressive, he’s surrounded by all the old Bush neocons, and he seems totally unwilling to push against Netanyahu on the push for war.

Iran’s nuclear policy itself is largely beside the point—as Paul Pillar wrote in this magazine earlier this year, a nuclear-armed Iran is far, far less risky than a ground war, for America and Israel both.

Now, this is no guarantee of anything, and indeed has happened before with little effect. But it’s a chance to avoid yet another pointless bloody catastrophe in the Middle East. Let’s hope these talks pan out.


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Follow Ryan on Twitter @ryanlcooper. Ryan Cooper is a national correspondent at The Week. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, The New Republic, and The Nation.