This should be huge news. According to Barbara Slavin, the veteran Middle East reporter, the Iranian government has issued a 10-page paper suggesting the resolution of its conflict over its nuclear program through comprehensive negotiations with the west.
A ten page document given Tuesday (July 3) to Iran experts by Iran's mission to the United Nations also calls for lifting all sanctions against Iran and a framework for "comprehensive and targeted dialogue for long term cooperation" that goes beyond the nuclear issue. It includes elements of a bigger bargain normalizing Iran's status in the international community.
The Iranians first goal is the lifting of sanctions. There is nothing new in that, nor in Iran's demand for "recognition of its right to enrich uranium...." (Full text of Iran paper here).
What is new is how the Iranian government proposes to get to that point: through "cooperation and reciprocal steps." In other words: step by step negotiations, with the goal being satisfaction of both sides.
These negotiations would not be limited to nuclear issues. Slavin writes:
A final goal, according to the document, is "a comprehensive agreement on collective commitments in the areas of economic, political, security and international cooperation" that includes Iranian inclusion in talks aimed at ending the conflict in Syria -- something the US has opposed.
The last time Iran offered the west comprehensive negotiations was in 2003 when, in the wake of the invasion of Iraq, the shaken Iranian government decided that it should seek a deal with the Bush administration to ensure that it was not the next Middle East country to face attack. At that time, an over-confident Bush administration simply ignored the offer. An opportunity was lost.
It may be back. Fearing an attack by Israel backed by the United States, the Iranians seem to be in a bargaining mood.
The United States should say "yes" and include in the list of issues to be discussed Iran's role in supporting the Syrian government's war on its own people, its threats against Israel and support for Hezbollah and other issues that have divided us from Iran since the Iranian revolution.
In other words, Iran wants recognition of its right to enrich uranium; here is what we want.
One thing we cannot do is to continue to refuse to discuss the lifting of sanctions as we have thus far. Why in God's name would Iran seriously negotiate when we say that the one thing they seek is off the table? It wouldn't.
The name of the game is diplomacy. The alternative is likely to be a war which will kill thousands of people, endanger U.S. vital interests in the region including our military and civilian personnel throughout the Muslim world, threaten the long-term survival of the State of Israel and irreparably damage American interests throughout the Middle East starting with the crashing of the world economy.
There is absolutely no reason not to accept the Iranian offer much like one would accept an offer to buy your house. Is the would-be buyer offering too little? Then cross out the figure he has penned in and put down yours. It's called a counteroffer.
Remember how President Kennedy resolved the Cuban Missile Crisis. The Soviets first made a seemingly generous offer. But then, within hours, they reconsidered and sent an offer that met none of our demands. While his Cabinet fumed, Kennedy came up with a solution: accept the first offer and ignore the second. His gambit ultimately led to a resolution of the crisis and saved the planet.
President Obama can do the same with this latest Iranian offer. He should respond by indicating eagerness to discuss all the issues dividing the U.S. and Iran, starting with the nuclear issue and sanctions, and then moving on to the rest.
Why not? The worst that can happen is not reaching a deal. But the best: Obama can earn that Nobel Peace Prize and the horrific prospect of war with Iran would finally be off the table, along with the possibility that it will develop nuclear weapons. Isn't it worth a try?