It begins: Obama drafting letter to new pen pals in Iran

Not to Ahmadinejad but to Khamenei himself, apparently. That way he doesn’t have to worry about getting any rambling 18-page replies.

State department officials have written at least three drafts of the letter, which gives assurances that Washington does not want to overthrow the Islamic regime but merely seeks a change in its behaviour. The letter would be addressed to the Iranian people and sent directly to Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, or released as an open letter.

One draft proposal suggests Iran should compare its relatively low standard of living with that of some of its more prosperous neighbours and contemplate the benefits of losing its pariah status in the west. Although the tone is conciliatory, it also calls on Iran to end what the US calls state sponsorship of terrorism.

The letter is being considered by the new secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, as part of a sweeping review of US policy on Iran. A decision on sending it is not expected until the review is complete…

Saeed Leylaz, a Tehran-based analyst, said a US letter would have to be accompanied by security guarantees and an agreement to drop economic sanctions. “If they send such a letter it will be a very significant step towards better ties but they should be careful in not thinking Tehran will respond immediately,” he said.

I wonder if they’ll tack a “P.S. Sorry” on at the end. In fairness, there may be an ulterior motive to this: Ahmadinejad’s up for reelection in June and Khatami, the “moderate” who preceded him in office, is evidently planning to challenge him. By showing a conciliatory face now, The One may be trying to swing Khamenei towards backing Khatami and the reformists and leaving Ahmadinejad and the hardliners out in the cold. Although if Khamenei’s planning to dump the tiny terrorist for anyone, I’d guess it’s for his protege Larijani. He is high on Hopenchange, after all.

As for what sorts of security guarantees the U.S. would have to concede, it’s easy to guess where they’ll start. Thanks again, New York Times!