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By M. K. Bhadrakumar, Asia Times Online, Feb. 18, 2012
The foreplay is nearing completion on the Iran situation. The surest sign is that there were no serious takers in Western capitals for the Israeli smear campaign this week that Tehran's agents had been going about placing bombs in New Delhi, Tbilisi and Bangkok. Simply put, there is growing impatience that it is way past the time for histrionics.
Several indicators are available that matters are moving towards a substantive plane. One cluster of events this week consists of the Iranian reply to the letter from the European Union foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, penned by Tehran's chief negotiator, Saeed Jalili. Simultaneously, Tehran announced it was developing a new generation of centrifuges and augmenting its number of centrifuges from 6,000 to 9,000 as well as loading a research reactor with Iran's first batch of domestically produced fuel.
While Tehran's announcement of new nuclear "achievements" might have appeared as a belligerent move - Washington derided it as "hype" meant for the domestic audience in Iran - the contents of Jalili's letter, and, more important, the initial responses of cautious optimism it generated within hours in Western capitals convey that there are positive stirrings in the air.
The reaction in Washington is particularly noteworthy [....]