What happened
Leaders of Arab countries are worried that a U.S. intelligence report saying that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003 will encourage Tehran to beef up its military. Middle East analysts said the news could be a sign that the Bush administration is ready to make a diplomatic push to ease tensions in the region. (Los Angeles Times, free registration)

What the commentators said
This report “gives us an excellent—and fleeting—opportunity to extend an olive branch of our own and open direct and wide-ranging talks with Iran,” said Rosa Brooks in the Los Angeles Times (free registration). Both Washington and Tehran want to prevent Iraq’s civil war from “engulfing the Middle East,” so why not throw Iran a bone or two?

The United States can’t “talk its way” out of every danger, said Daniel Henninger in The Wall Street Journal. Democrats are giddy about the conclusions in the new National Intelligence Estimate because they think it confirms their image of President Bush as “a bumbling Elmer Fudd, who outlandishly overestimates the danger from such imagined threats as Saddam Hussein, Syria or Iran's mysterious-looking mullahs.” But in the real world, leaders have to keep both diplomacy and force on the table.

Yes, and Bush should have given talks with Iran a whirl two years ago, said Fred Kaplan in Slate. Now that we know Iran is farther from building a nuke than we thought, “we can afford to take some risks and try out new approaches.” The need for a diplomatic push is even more urgent now, because the intelligence estimate will weaken the world’s appetite for sanctions, and that could “spur Iran's leaders to resume and step up their nuclear program while the pressure is off.“