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Has there been any progress in the United States' effort to stop Iran's nuclear program?

Don't Panic... Your War Questions Answered

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Like my career, the United States' nuclear standoff with Iran doesn't ever seem to progress.

Since 2003, the Bush administration (with international support) has been demanding that Iran halt its nuclear fuel enrichment program. And since 2003, Iran has been telling George W. Bush to take his demands, roll them tight and cram them up his axis of evil. Iran insists that its fuel enrichment is solely for treaty-approved nuclear power production and it will therefore continue.

The main reason this dispute seems to be going on and on: the aggressive ineptitude (and the inept aggression) of the concerned parties.

The Bush administration insists that it's willing to sit down with Iranian diplomats to negotiate about Iran's nuclear program, but only if Iran agrees to give up its nuclear program before the negotiations start. Translation: "We'll negotiate with Iran on the condition that Iran agrees to give us exactly what we want before negotiations even start." Apparently, the Bush administration's $35 billion fiscal year 2007 diplomacy budget doesn't include the $5.99 (plus tax) needed to buy a dictionary that includes the definition of the word "negotiate."

Even stupider, the Bush administration turned down an offer made by Iran in the spring of 2003 to negotiate a comprehensive settlement of all the two nations' disputes.

Try to let that sink in for a second. In 2003, just after the United States toppled Saddam Hussein but before Iraq began its steady decline into chaos, Iran sent a note to the United States essentially saying that, in exchange for security guarantees and normalized relations, Iran would be willing to give up its nuclear program, stop funding Hezbollah and Palestinian militants, and work with the United States to help stabilize Iraq. The Bush administration didn't just ignore the offer, it admonished the Swiss diplomats who delivered it to us from Iran.

Not to be out-stupided by the Bush administration, the mullahcrats in Tehran have seemingly gone out of their way to give the world the impression that their dictionaries are missing the word "sane."

In 2005, Iran's real leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, allowed Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to become Iran's president. Ahmadinejad has undermined Iran's previous claims that its nuclear program is peaceful by repeatedly stating Iran's intention to eliminate Israel. Because Iran doesn't border Israel and because Israel is by far the dominant conventional military power in the Middle East, official Iranian references to eliminating Israel are interpreted to mean nuclear holocaust. And if one had any doubt that Iran's president is thirsty for angry confrontation with the West, late last year he hosted a conference of Holocaust deniers in Tehran.

The current best hope for a peaceful settlement of the nuclear fuel enrichment standoff is that the stupidity of the United States and Iran has thus far united the international community in pursuit of a peaceful solution.

Annoyed and frightened by Iran's posturing and by the Bush administration's colossal bungling in Iraq and Afghanistan, the nations of the U.N. Security Council have united to try to rein in Iran before the United States attempts another ill-conceived bombing campaign.

In December, U.N. Resolution 1737 froze the assets of companies with ties to Iran's nuclear sector. And the United States has used its economic leverage to get international banks to stop doing business with Iran. The result has been an economic squeeze in Iran that has prompted a wave of public criticism of Ahmadinejad for turning the world community against Iran while turning his back on the promises he made to improve Iran's economy. Ahmadinejad didn't win Iran's presidency by campaigning on a platform of Holocaust-denying and high-fiving Hugo Chavez. He won promising economic reforms that would improve standards of living and budge Iran's 20-percent unemployment rate.

Public criticism in Iran of Ahmadinejad is significant. The government of Iran regularly imprisons and kills people who complain. If thousands are bold enough to speak up, Iran's government knows there are millions more who are angry but scared to complain. If the United States, the EU and the United Nations stick together, it's likely that Iran can be coaxed into negotiating a settlement similar to the one it offered in 2003.

In the meantime, will someone please teach the Bush administration the definition of the word "negotiate"?

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