Have Iran and the United States agreed to direct talks over halting Iran's uranium enrichment? The U.S. administration did not deny The New York Times' report on Sunday that the two countries had agreed to a dialogue. Neither did the Iranian foreign minister's statement - "We don't have any discussions or negotiations with America" - indicate that Iran isn't willing to engage in such a dialogue following U.S. elections.
Official Israeli spokesmen, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, did not really deny the existence of such coordination and assent. Yet Netanyahu, as usual, took the trouble to dismiss from the outset any attempt at direct or indirect talks with Iran - the purpose of which, to his mind, would be to provide Iran with another excuse to procrastinate.
It is too early to pin hopes on American-Iranian dialogue. However, it would be a mistake to write off the possibility of its existence, or of it achieving real results. Netanyahu himself has postponed a military option until the summer, with more and more sanctions being imposed on Iran. And in Iran, which is preparing for presidential elections in the summer of 2013, internal changes are afoot that oppose the policies of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Under these circumstances, diplomatic logic requires reevaluation of the expression, "What was, is what will always be."
The existence of dialogue does not take the military option off the table. While the six-country team continues its talks with Iran, to be renewed in November, the U.S. president continues to adhere to his policy of not allowing Iran to attain nuclear weapons. From Israel's point of view, it doesn't matter who gets Iran to agree to stop enriching its uranium. But the importance of direct, public dialogue with the United States, if such a thing takes place, is that it could create an historic turning point in Iran's attitude toward America.
Such dialogue should be encouraged. All countries should aspire to it, especially Israel, which seeks to remove the Iranian nuclear threat not only by curbing Iran's technological ability, but also, in a more fundamental way, by neutralizing Iran's motivation to harm other countries.
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