Via Andrew Sullivan:
Suzanne Maloney thinks it’s the best bet:
Negotiations in the absence of mutual trust present a difficult dilemma but not a hopeless one. The depth of the estrangement that exists today between Washington and Tehran is hardly less fierce than it was during the hostage crisis, yet ultimately a mechanism for dialogue and a resolution to the standoff was found largely because both sides could ascertain no better alternative to achieve their interests. Even then, it took repeated forays and failures in diplomatic outreach by both sides, the persistent efforts of a well-situated objective intermediary, and a considerable investment in staff work to ensure preparation, mediation, and implementation of the complex financial, legal, security, and other dimensions of a bargain.
Paul Pillar factors in the effect of sanctions:
Western negotiators need to persuade the Iranians that concessions on their part will lead to the lifting of sanctions. This may be hard to do, partly because the legislation that imposes U.S. sanctions on Iran mentions human rights and other issues besides the nuclear program, and partly because many U.S. hawks openly regard sanctions only as a tool to promote regime change or as a necessary step toward being able to say that “diplomacy and sanctions have failed,” and thus launching a war is the only option left. The challenge for the Obama administration is to persuade Tehran that this attitude does not reflect official policy.
Meanwhile, President Obama addressed the GOP war hawks; from a Talking Points Memo rush transcript:
Now, what is said on the campaign trail, you know, those folks don’t have a lot of responsibilities. They are not commander-in-chief. And when I see the casualness with which some of these folks talk about war, I’m reminded of the costs involved in war. I’m reminded that the decision that I have to make, in terms of sending our young men and women into battle, and the impact that has on their lives, the impact it has on our national security, the impact it has on our economy. This is not a game, and there is nothing casual about it. And, you know, when I see some of these folks who have a lot of bluster and a lot of big talk, but when you actually ask them specifically what they would do, it turns out they repeat the things that we’ve been doing over the last three years. It indicates to me that that is more about politics than actually trying to solve a difficult problem. Now, the one thing that we have not done is we haven’t launched a war. If some of these folks think that it’s time to launch a war they should say so, and they should explain to the American people exactly why they would do that and what the consequences would be.
An adept deflection to all the GOP bluster, and perhaps, in particular, to his supposed Presidential opponent, Mitt Romney, who flat out lied when he said this on March 4th:
This is a president who has failed … to communicate that military options are on the table and in fact in our hand. And that it’s unacceptable to America for Iran to have a nuclear weapon.
Bets are that Romney will not take a chance to defend his words directly. There’s a definite possibility he will try to posture himself in some weaseling two-faced way though.