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U.S.-Iran regional power plays shift

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The proposal said Iran was willing to start talks on issues from its nuclear program to a "just peace … in regions that suffer from instability, militarism, violence, and terrorism," according to an unofficial translation. Iran would cooperate to "assist the Palestinian people to find a comprehensive plan" that was "sustainable, democratic, and fair" – effectively a peace deal with Israel, without using either word in the text.

"It's a significant departure in foreign policy. I think they are serious," says a political scientist in Tehran, who asked not to be named. "There is a sense of compromise [from Iran, born] primarily out of self-confidence. They think that they won in Lebanon; that they won in Iraq to a large degree. There is deadlock on the nuclear issue [so] it's a good time to be a little more soft and compromising."

Iran may also be looking beyond the US election, this analyst says. "This is part of an overall approach that may be a prelude … to show the next president that Iran could be worked with," he says. "If you are serious and treat Iran with dignity … there could be windfalls in other areas as well."

Analysts in Beirut and Tehran say Iran is not likely to prevent a Syrian peace with Israel, in the same way that – despite continuous lambasting of Israel – Iran has often stated that it will not undermine any peace deal acceptable to Palestinians.

"Peace with Syria would break up the current strategic situation because it would isolate Iran and silence Hezbollah," Israeli infrastructure minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer told Israel public radio on Tuesday. "We are talking about a true peace, an end to hostilities, an opening of the borders, and Israel is ready to pay the price for such a peace and coexistence with Syria."

But the weak government of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is not likely to be able to deliver.

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