But if he wants a war with Israel, he could have it tomorrow by launching rockets. If he wants war with America, Bush and Cheney will accommodate him. He has done neither.
Ahmadinejad is behaving like a man provoking us to hit him, but not too hard, so he can play the "victim" of U.S. "aggression" without winding up in the hospital or the morgue.
For while Iran's regime might benefit from heroically enduring U.S. strikes to destroy its nuclear facilities -- none of which is near producing atom-bomb material -- a major war would be a disaster for Iran. Not only would the regime be denuded of modern weapons, it would be set back decades to where the Arabs, Azeris, Baluchis and Kurds might try to break the country up, even as Iraq is breaking up.
But this would be a disaster for the United States as well. For an attack on Iran would unify Persians in hatred of America, the way Pearl Harbor unified Americans. And a breakup of Iran could create a new archipelago of terrorist training camps across the Middle East.
What we are getting at is that there is common ground between the United States and Iran. Neither of us would benefit from a major war. Both of us benefit if there is a reliable flow of oil and gas out of the Gulf and Central Asia. Neither of us wants to see the return of the Taliban or rise of al-Qaida, which is anti-Shiite. In his 18-page letter, Ahmadinejad powerfully condemned the massacre of 9-11.
And Tehran must be having second thoughts about whether to go nuclear when that could mean Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Egypt might follow suit, and the United States and Israel would put a hair trigger on their missile arsenals, and target them on Tehran.
Better to talk. To test the waters, President Bush might take up Ahmadinejad's missive, manifest the same respect for Islam that he showed for Jesus of Nazareth, rebut his attacks on America and lay down what Bush would like to see in a future relationship with Iran.
We have much to talk about: terror, nuclear power, Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine, oil, what we owe Iran and what Iran owes us.