Defiant Iran

Christopher de Bellaigue in the New York Review of Books:

Ahmadineuad_m20050811At the beginning of 2002, President George W. Bush tried to punish Iran for supporting anti-Israel militants, for refusing to adopt a Western-style democracy, and for allegedly trying to produce weapons of mass destruction. He included Iran, along with Iraq and North Korea, in the “axis of evil.” Among foreign diplomats and journalists in Tehran, it became fashionable to speak of the coming “implosion” of the Islamic Republic, Iran’s revolutionary state. Weakened by a power struggle between reformists and conservative hard-liners, Iran was now, or so it was said, acutely vulnerable to the sort of threat that the United States, whose forces had easily toppled the Taliban and scattered al-Qaeda, seemed to represent.

The fear of intervention by the US in Iran became more urgent among Iran’s leaders when America invaded Iraq the following year. Indeed, it later became known that, in early 2003, the Iranian Foreign Ministry quietly sent Washington a detailed proposal for comprehensive negotiations, in which the Iranian government said it was prepared to make concessions about its nuclear program and to address concerns about its ties to groups such as Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad, in return for an agreement from the White House to refrain from destabilizing the Islamic Republic and start lifting long-in-effect sanctions. The US rejected this overture out of hand. It seemed that Bush didn’t want to offer guarantees to a regime that he intended, at a later date, to try to destroy.

Nowadays, it is hard to imagine the Iranian government repeating this sort of offer.

More here.