If we are going to figure out what to do about Iran, we are going to have to discuss how we got to this point more seriously. Gareth Porter has an important article in The American Prospect about Iran's 2003 overtures to the United States. Iran was prepared to give real concessions on nuclear weapons and Israel/Palestine in return for recognition and the abandonment of "regime change."
On the one hand, the existence of such a conciliatory mood in 2003 shows how strong the US's hand was at that time. The quick disposal of the Taliban and the urgency created by 9/11 altered the balance enough for Tehran to be scared.
The trouble was that the neocons were in no mood to bank their winnings. The State Department, and Richard Armitage in particular, were out of favour, and Doug "Stupidest F**king Guy on Earth" Feith and other "axis of evil" types decided that moral clarity was better than concrete gains.
(Via Matthew Yglesias)