Talks in Geneva this week between Iran and the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany began well.
Both Iran's nuclear program and the economic sanctions against it were on the table. More talks are scheduled for Nov. 7-8.
The parties, including the United States, began with the makings of a deal. Iran will need to yield on transparency -- in admitting International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors to all of its installations and in alerting the IAEA to any changes in the nuclear program. Iran continues to maintain that it seeks only peaceful uses of nuclear energy.
Iran may be ready to play ball. Its economy has been battered by the international sanctions and it costs money to get around them through various financial maneuvers. Its presidential election offered some reason for hope for a change of course. The many candidates were boiled down by the ayatollah-run Guardians Council to an approved six. The most liberal, Hassan Rouhani, won.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continues to sound a warning that Iran and Mr. Rouhani are acting in bad faith and that the United States should take military action against Iran, even though he knows that the last thing in the world Americans want or can afford is another Middle East war. It is normal for him to want Israel to remain the only country in the region with nuclear weapons, as is suspected.
On the U.S. and U.N. side, eased or removed concerns about Iran's nuclear intentions are certainly a desirable goal in the quest for Middle East peace. It is also true that a twisted trading relationship with Iran is to no one's advantage, including America's. It is currently a high, but necessary, price to pay to put Iran on a path away from a nuclear weapons capacity.
At present three processes are underway with respect to Middle East issues that could come out right for the United States. The Iran nuclear negotiation is one. A second is the Israeli-Palestinian talks. A third is the Syria peace talks, now set for Nov. 27. Success in any one of them would be worth having. All three would be extremely good for the region, for the United States and for showing that talks instead of war can be used to resolve problems.
First Published October 17, 2013 8:00 PM