On the day that E.U. foreign ministers approved new sanctions against Iran that go well beyond the measures approved by the United Nations, the news came that Iran is prepared to return to negotiations on a nuclear-fuel swap “without conditions.”
Whether this offer comes as a result of the tough line taken by the United States and the European Union or is due to the ongoing diplomatic efforts of countries like Turkey and Brazil, the important thing now is to take this opportunity to defuse this dangerous standoff.
Over the past months, rhetoric on both sides has been ratcheting up with a fourth round of U.N. sanctions, unilateral U.S. and E.U. sanctions and reports of a military build-up in the Gulf.
Recently, the Iranian Parliament passed a bill that forces President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to continue uranium enrichment up to the more sensitive level of 20 percent. Although sanctions are seen by some as an alternative to military action, they can also be seen as a precursor to war: the enforcement of sanctions through high-seas inspections of Iranian vessels will result in skirmishes that could escalate. If the Iranians say they are willing to come to the table to talk about a nuclear-fuel swap “without conditions,” the West’s refusal to join them would be a myopic miscalculation.