From Slate 14 Sept 2009, by Christopher Hitchens:
... the U.S. government has come to a point where it must ask itself: What is it like to enter negotiations with a man who loathes you and who every Friday holds public prayers that call for your death?
Last Friday brought the news that the Obama administration had accepted an offer from Tehran, delivered the preceding Wednesday, for the holding of what the New York Times called "unconditional talks."...
...But things have changed a little since the president and his secretary of state were sparring over the word unconditional during the primaries.
First, it has become ever clearer that Iran's uranium-enrichment and centrifuge program has put it within measurable distance of the ability to weaponize its nuclear capacity.
Second, it has become obscenely obvious that the theocracy is prepared to govern by force alone and to employ the most appalling measures to remain in power without a mandate.
...Do we seriously expect the Islamic Republic to be negotiating in good faith about its nuclear program?
...What do we know about the effect of these proposed talks on the morale and the leadership of the Iranian opposition?
One presumes that the Mahmoud Ahmadinejad regime had its own reasons for firing off a five-page document proposing negotiations and including Britain, France, Russia, Germany, and China.... The letter was sent out in the same period that the Russian government opposed any further sanctions on Iran for noncooperation, in the same period that Ahmadinejad announced that Iran would never halt its nuclear fuel production, and in the run-up to Ahmadinejad's next appearance at the podium of the United Nations toward the end of this month.
Might it be possible—you will, I hope, forgive my cynicism—that this latest initiative from Tehran is yet another attempt to buy time or run out the clock?
Meanwhile, it is certainly the case that at least three of the six countries approached are being asked to negotiate under some kind of duress. In an unpardonable violation of diplomatic immunity (a phrase that may remind you of something), employees of the French and British Embassies in Tehran have been placed under arrest and subjected to show trials since the convulsions that attended the coup mounted by the Revolutionary Guards in June. And the Iranian correspondent of Newsweek magazine—who is also a Canadian citizen—has been held incommunicado for almost the same length of time. Without overstressing any "preconditions," it doesn't seem too much to require of the Iranian regime that it not send out invitations to countries whose citizens or locally engaged diplomatic staff it is holding as hostages.
... Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations ...said, [that the US] would not impose "artificial deadlines" on Ahmadinejad.... [BUT we already have a bushel of ] "genuine" deadline[s], whereby, for example, the United Nations required Iran to demonstrate compliance with the relevant Security Council resolutions on nuclear proliferation ...or face further U.N.-mandated sanctions ...
From all appearances, then, this seems like another snow job from the mullahs. ...
... Abbas Milani, the director of Iranian studies at Stanford University:
When you read [the Iranian letter] and realize how empty of earnest negotiating positions it in fact is, you are left with no choice but to conclude that they are relying on their ally in Putin's Russia to veto any resolutions against them. For the Russians to be able to even pretend to be serious in their talk of no need for more pressure on the regime, Tehran has also to pretend to be serious in negotiation....