What happened
United Nations negotiators were optimistic going into talks about Iran’s nuclear program on Monday. Olli Heinonen, deputy director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said Iran’s cooperation was “good,” although Tehran issued fresh warnings over the weekend that new U.S. sanctions could be harmful to diplomatic work.

What the commentators said
The diplomats won’t be able to bring Iran “back in from the cold” unless President Bush tones down his bullying rhetoric, said The New York Times in an editorial (free registration). By raising the threat of “World War III” should Iran manage to make a nuclear weapon, Bush only made it more likely that such a doomsday scenario would happen. It’s past time to get serious about finding a diplomatic way to end Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

Sanctions are the key, said Ofer Bavly in The Miami Herald (free registration). “Iran’s nuclear program is on a fast track,” so its leaders must “be confronted with an economic choice: Pump more billions of dollars into building weapons or feed your population.” Tehran is more vulnerable than many people think, as it can’t afford to invest enough in its oil fields to keep producing as much as it needs to stay afloat financially.

So let’s talk of sanctions, not war, said The Seattle Times in an editorial. “Americans are not alone in recoiling in alarm” at Bush’s talk of launching yet another war. But for sanctions to work the international community has to step up and cooperate. Nobody wants to “push Iran into a corner,” so everybody has a stake in finding a peaceful way out of this showdown.