Getting to Yes

Michael Hirsh says he thinks the Bush administration is getting ready to take yes for an answer from Teheran:

On the latter point, the Bush administration does seem to be shifting in tone. With the departure of several key Bush hardliners in recent months, it feels as if the regime-change fever has broken in Washington. While still talking tough, chief Iran envoy Nicholas Burns sounded almost magnanimous toward Tehran on Wednesday as he detailed the “multiple points of pressure” being applied on Iran’s leaders. Speaking at a Rand Corp. conference on Capitol Hill, Burns said the Western allies are still very willing to offer Tehran a nearly simultaneous “suspension for suspension”—that is, the West will stop the U.N. resolution process if Iran ceases enriching—even though the Americans and Europeans are in a much stronger position than they were several months ago. Just as importantly, Burns said the United States was sensitive to Tehran’s need to save face after its leaders have spent months defiantly insisting that they would never give up their uranium-enrichment program. “We understand they have their domestic political arena” to think about, he said. “We have carefully given the Iranians ‘exit doors’” —ways to retain a civilian nuclear program while guaranteeing there would be no bomb.

I certainly hope that’s right. I was at the conference, though, and though all points of view were represented, there was an overall dovish tone (Iran’s ambassador to the UN even spoke via teleconference, but I unfortunately had to miss him) so this sort of sentiment is what the audience wanted to hear. That Burns was interested in showing up at all, however, was certainly a good sign. I would have more faith, though, if this sort of message were going to a different audience.