Surprise: Reports of Iran suspending enrichment were greatly exaggerated

As expected, the breathless story on Thursday about a deal to stand down on uranium if sanctions are dropped was indeed pure crap. And not only was it crap, not only did Iran offer nothing in its counterproposal except the prospect of more negotiations to drag this kabuki out further, it came sealed with an Ahmadinejad-esque rhetorical kiss. If you’ve sat through any of his tedious UN speeches, veering from anti-colonialist invective towards the west and Israel to griping about the post-WWII world order represented by the Security Council to flowery abstractions about peace, justice, and logic, this will sound familiar. Or does the entire Iranian leadership talk like this and we just don’t know it?

“The time for negotiating from the condescending position of inequality has come to an end,” the response said, according to the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity under normal diplomatic rules.

The letter added that such treatment “will not remain unnoticed in the eyes of intelligent statesmen.”

It also called United Nations Security Council sanctions illegal and spoke of a “lack of trust” because of the “duplicitous behavior of certain big powers,” the officials said…

In contrast, the letter said, Iran shows a “compassionate approach and behavior” in its international relations and in its efforts to bring stability to the people of Iraq and Afghanistan.

It said Iran’s policy on negotiations over its nuclear program was to “find common ground through logical and constructive actions” and a “positive attitude.”

I didn’t include the most amazing quote from the piece, that from a senior European official who basically admits that Iran’s just playing games to buy time. I’ve said this before but it bears repeating here: The first question at the first debate between McCain and Obama should be how they’d improve upon the west’s current offer and what lesson they take from the fact that Iran still refuses to even address the substance of the proposal, let alone compromise on the terms. In the meantime, what’s our next move? Trying to turn up the pressure by peeling Syria away? I’m more credulous than usual that Assad might be open to it since Bush and Olmert are both weakened and anxious for a “legacy,” and thus he might think he can get a deal on favorable terms. It may be too that Maliki’s show of spine in Basra plus Israel’s big dress rehearsal in the Mediterranean have convinced him that Iran’s influence inside Iraq is ebbing and that war is on the way, and he doesn’t want to get dragged in on the losing side. Exit question: Would Bush go for it? After the North Korea deal, why not?