05/19/2006 01:20 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

The Rohani Letter

Today, NPR did what few mainstream media outlets have done in the past 10 days: tell the public about the recent diplomatic overture from Iran.

Oh last week, you probably heard about the May 8 letter from Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to George W. Bush, which Bush dismissed for not directly addressing the nuclear issue.

But most likely, you haven't heard about the other May 8 letter from Iran, this one from Hassan Rohani, a representative of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khameini (who, of course, outranks Ahmadinejad).

It was an open letter to Time magazine (additional Time coverage here and here).

In it, Rohani says, "A nuclear weaponized Iran destabilizes the region, prompts a regional arms race[,] wastes the scarce resources in the region [and accords] Iran no security dividends." He even argues that there are "Islamic" reasons "not [to] develop and use weapons of mass destruction."

He then lays out an eight-point framework for a negotiated solution, one of which is, "Iran would consider ratifying the Additional Protocol, which provides for intrusive and snap inspections."

The media have largely ignored this significant development. Besides Time, only New York Newsday (here and here) provided any notable coverage last week.

(I wrote about it on LiberalOasis last week. And for those of you subscribing to Air America Radio Premium, you can hear me discuss it on the May 15th edition of The Majority Report.)

Particularly egregious is that yesterday, the NY Times and W. Post (and probably others) reported on Ahmadinejad's snubbing of a forthcoming European proposal, yet did not report on Bush's snubbing of Rohani's proposal, let alone ever mention that there is a Rohani proposal. Such selective reporting is giving Americans a terribly distorted picture of how these negotiations are proceeding.

Of course, the mere fact that a top Iranian official is offering compromises does not mean that the Iranian government is a bunch of sweet guys, or that the proposal can be blindly taken at face value. But it does mean that there is a diplomatic opening worth pursuing.

Last week, Bush publicly dismissed Ahmadinejad's letter because it "didn't address" the nuclear issue. Fair enough. Yet when presented with a letter that did, Bush ignored that one too.

And it was all the easier for Bush to ignore it, when the vast majority of the mainstream media ignores it, and few American citizens know about it.

Now that NPR has shone fresh light on the Rohani proposal, perhaps other reporters might consider asking the White House directly: why isn't this offer worthy of direct talks with Iran?