Just to add to your post, I just want to voice a bit of frustration that so seldom do commentators acknowledge that lifting preconditions is not a cost-free method of getting to the diplomatic table sooner.
Senators Daniel Coats and Chuck Robb just released a Bipartisan Policy Center Task Force report on U.S. Policy toward Iranian nuclear development. (Full disclosure, I was the study group’s report drafter). With regard to preconditions, they note:
Second, the new President will need to determine whether to maintain the policy of the Bush Administration and the EU-3 against negotiating with Tehran over the nuclear issue unless the Islamic Republic suspends its enrichment-related activities, or drop this precondition to negotiations. Any formal dialogue with Iran absent suspension of enrichment could backfire: Not only would the United States implicitly void all UN Security Council resolutions demanding a cessation of Iranian uranium enrichment, but Iranian authorities are likely to interpret U.S. flexibility as acquiescence to the Iranian position that it must be permitted to enrich—all the more reason to increase multilateral sanctions as any new incentives are contemplated.
Now, there are arguments (with which I disagree) suggesting it might be a good thing to lift the preconditions, but I do wish the commentators who look at this as a no-brainer would understand that lifting the demand that Iran suspend its illegal uranium enrichment can sabotage the very talks which they say they want and bring us closer to a showdown.