Iran reportedly has followed President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s recent wacky letter to President Bush with explicit requests for direct talks with the U.S. about its nuclear program. The Bush administration apparently is not enthusiastic, but the Washington Post’s CIA sources are.
One enthusiast is former CIA Middle East intelligence analyst (and my old college roommate and debate partner) Paul Pillar. Paul says:
There is no question in my mind that there has been for some time a desire on the part of the senior Iranian leadership to engage in a dialogue with the United States. . . .Much stranger first steps have led to dialogues than this letter. And as weird as the letter may be, if the Iranians want to begin discussions based on the theme of righteousness, that’s something we should not be afraid to engage on. We have pretty strong arguments about justice and righteousness of our own, so we should not shy away from that.
Sounds promising. We can try to persuade a madman that we have justice and righteousness on our side (and maybe make a few concessions to buttress our argument) while Iran goes about the business of developing its nuclear program.