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Bringing Iran On Board

Young Iranians just want to have fun. Unfortunately, most of the time, they can't.

So when Iran's soccer team wins a big international game, young people take to the streets by the hundreds of thousands and celebrate to near-riot. That's what they did on Wednesday - the third time since Oct. 12.

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Unfortunately, such bubbling dissent in Iran's 22-year-old theocracy - where well over half the population is under 25 - just might influence whether the US can win the support of Iran's ruling clerics in creating a nonTaliban government in neighboring Afghanistan after the war.

Iran's supreme religious leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is so nervous over the youthful dissent that - while lashing out at the US - he's ordered satellite TV dishes to be confiscated.

Iran, like Pakistan, is key to the US strategy of ending Afghanistan's role as a platform for terrorism. Iran is tied to a key Afghan minority, the Hazara, for religious and ethnic reasons, in opposing the Taliban.

Pakistan already is on board with the US, winning economic bonuses as a result. And Iran? Secretary of State Colin Powell may try to win it over next week, when he's expected to meet the Iranian foreign minister.

What can the US give Iran for cooperating, especially when the US sees Iran as a supporter of terrorism against Israel?

With Iran's clerics clinging to power, they may want the US to stop America-based Iranians from stirring up the masses via satellite TV. Or to force a peace deal on Israel.

Even talking with Iran will be a big step for the US. It may feel pressure to make a deal quickly if the Taliban starts to fall, a deal the US may later regret.

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Iran is much more pivotal in geopolitical terms than Afghanistan. A false step could "lose Iran" for another couple of decades, and jeopardize that nation's reformist, democratic forces.

Mr. Powell will need to balance the US interest in ending global terrorism against the wishes of millions of Iranians to be free of their theocratic jail.