Iran Seizes a Diplomatic Opportunity

Iran has sent U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon a sweeping proposal for a peaceful settlement of major disputes. President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad appears to have spotted an opportunity to upstage the U.S., where leaders are bogged down in campaign rhetoric.

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DANIEL SCHORR: Maybe you haven't noticed, but while American politicians argue about who is the appeaser and who is the tough guy, radical Iran has seized the opportunity to don the mantle of peacemaker.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

NPR's senior news analyst Daniel Schorr.

SCHORR: The regime in Tehran has sent United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon a sweeping proposal for a peaceful settlement of major disputes. It would include nuclear disarmament, peaceful nuclear development observed by a U.N. watchdog, and wide-ranging negotiations to help the Palestinians achieve a sustainable democratic and fair solution; also cooperation against terrorism, drugs and illegal immigration. That does not sound like the Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that we have come to know and hate.

But clearly he has seen an opportunity to upstage a United States bogged down in campaign rhetoric, and he has seized it. From our side of the great divide, the news is all about drastic action pedaled in rumors and background briefings. The Jerusalem Post, citing an Israeli army source, reported that during the visit of President Bush last week the Israeli government was told that the United States still intends to mount military action against Iran because of its nuclear program.

The Bush administration denied this. The Jerusalem Post has since then withdrawn its story. Another Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, also reports - and nobody denies - that during a visit by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert proposed a naval blockade of Iran by American warships.

Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Robert Gates finds himself facing critical questions before a Senate Defense Appropriations hearing on Tuesday. Republican Arlen Specter said we have seen the president's comment about appeasement of terrorists, but if we do not have dialogue with Iran, we're missing a great opportunity to avoid a future conflict. Who could have predicted that even as Senator John McCain was pitted against Senator Barack Obama on who was being soft on dictators, the axis of evil country Iran was reaching for the high ground?

This is Daniel Schorr.

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