Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), visited Iran in January, and was allowed a rare meeting with Iran's supreme leader, ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
ElBaradei, who announced that the IAEA's investigation into Iran's past nuclear activities (following the “work plan”) would be completed by mid-February, was making use of a window of opportunity caused by events in Washington.
The US attempt to escalate confrontation with Iran suffered a major setback in early December with the publication of the US intelligence community's National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran's nuclear programme.
The NIE, on the basis of “high quality” evidence, found that Iraq stopped whatever nuclear weapons-related programme it had in 2003 - as the result of international pressure.
So US intelligence agencies believe that Iran has no nuclear weapons programme (a sharp reversal from the last NIE in 2005) and also believe that Iran, far from being fanatically immovable, responds to international initiatives.
Both conclusions run counter to Bush administration rhetoric.