In January, Iran and the P5+1 countries, which includes the United States, will sit down in Istanbul for the second of the latest iteration of talks between the West and the Islamic Republic over the latter’s nuclear program.

At PBS/Frontline‘s Tehran Bureau, I laid out what I think is a pretty compelling case that the United States should put a confidence-building deal — specifically some new version of the long discussed fuel-swap arrangement — on the table.

From the Tehran Bureau piece:

If, in Istanbul next month, Iran balks at U.S. and P5+1 efforts to arrange a confidence-building fuel swap, the Islamic Republic’s intransigence will be put on full display. If, on the other hand, Iran agrees to such a deal, little harm will be done to the West’s longterm prospects of ending the nuclear standoff without drastic measures – and Iran will turn over a sizable chunk of its nuclear material. If the United States and the rest of the P5+1 make the Iranians an offer they can’t refuse, it could be a win-win situation.

John Limbert, a Naval Academy professor and distinguished former foreign service officer who was an Iranian hostage and later ran the Iran desk at Obama’s State Department, is fond of saying, “They always zig when we zag.” The inverse is also true and, at this moment, the United States seems to be the one doing the zigging. But a zigging line and a zagging line just might cross paths, and the Obama administration should take advantage if the opportunity arises in Istanbul. It may not work, but to do nothing, and to try nothing, is to passively slide down the path to confrontation.

Check out the whole thing here.