The standoff with Iran over nuclear reprocessing is turning into a graduate level seminar on high stakes negotiating techniques. Yesterday's offer by the US to meet with Iran carried a precondition, namely that Iran halt reprocessing during the negotiations. Normally, preconditions are not accepted by experienced negotiators, as they are a technique to get you to give away your position before you even sit down at the table. Clearly, the Iranians viewed this offer as such, and they also clearly don't believe the US is in a position to be issuing ultimatums, bogged down as we are in Iraq and Afghanistan. It would not surprise me however if, upon reflection, the Iranians do accept the US offer, perhaps with preconditions of their own. The US requirement for Iran to halt reprocessing is not unreasonable, as it seeks to freeze the status quo pending the negotiations. Otherwise, Iran would have a strong incentive to play the US just as it did the Europeans. A reasonable counter-proposal would be to agree to a one or two year freeze, ie until Bush is such a lame duck that US military action would be unthinkable. If a Democrat is elected, they can start reprocessing with the knowledge that nothing will be done to stop them, plus the administration would lean on Israel to do nothing. And they can continue secret work in the interim, just as the North Koreans did. To adopt a hard line now is unnecessarily risky for Iran. Bush could well order a missile attack or greenlight an Israeli attack. UN condemnation is theoretically possible, and the europeans might be coerced into some limited sanctions. Iran also has to worry that Bush might try a wag-the-dog strategy to solidify and rally the red state voters before the upcoming elections.