As with so much that is said in Tehran we will have to wait to see how seriously to take this announcement, but floating the news 72 hours before presidential elections in the United States has to be seen as a goodwill gesture from Iran to the incumbent. It’s possible the Iranian leadership still regrets the way that its refusal to make concessions on the hostage issue to Jimmy Carter helped elect Ronald Reagan in 1980; despite the tough line from the Obama administration on the Iranian nuclear program the mullahs may hope that it will be easier to deal with the current White House team than with the Republican foreign policy mavens eager to replace them.

Iran’s attempt to block Mitt Romney (whose pro-Israel rhetoric can’t have endeared him to the mullahs) from the White House won’t come to much; most Americans are deeply skeptical of Iran’s intentions the timing of the announcement is too crude to help. Americans are making up their minds in the presidential race without taking Iranian preferences into account. The step is more a publicity stunt than a serious opening; the proposed halt in enrichment is only good for a couple of weeks and nothing was said about Iran’s continuing push to increase the numbers of centrifuges that can speed up its enrichment process.