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from The Great Debate:

Iran election opens door to U.S. talks

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Paul Taylor-- Paul Taylor is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own --

A wind of change is blowing through Iran, where hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad faces an increasingly tough battle for re-election on Friday.

Whether or not Ahmadinejad fends off reformist Mirhossein Moussavi and two other candidates after a turbulent campaign, Iran is likely to be more open to talks with the United States on a possible "grand bargain" to end 30 years of hostility. Tehran will not give up its nuclear program, whoever wins. But it may be persuaded to stop short of testing or making a bomb.

There is a sense of deja vu about this election.

In 1997, a soft-spoken reformist, Mohammad Khatami, swept to a surprise landslide victory over the establishment candidate, Ali Akbar Nateq-Nouri, on a tide of young people and women clamoring for greater freedom. But after his supporters won control of parliament, the conservative clerical establishment used unelected institutions in Iran's complex power system to neutralize Khatami and block his liberal agenda.

There is, however, a crucial difference this time.

The United States, which had a policy of "dual containment" of Iran and Iraq at the time, never seized the opportunity of Khatami's victory to open a dialogue. Now, U.S. President Barack Obama is waiting with an outstretched hand and has made crucial gestures by accepting the Islamic Republic by its name, offering talks without pre-conditions and admitting Washington's role in ousting nationalist Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadeq in 1953.

from The Great Debate:

What to watch for in Iran’s presidential election

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Suzanne Maloney-- Dr. Suzanne Maloney is a senior fellow for foreign policy at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy. Maloney, a former U.S. state department policy advisor, recently  published the book "Iran's long reach: Iran as pivotal state in the Muslim world." The views expressed are her own. --

Iranians go to the polls on June 12 in what is shaping up to be the most contentious ballot in the thirty years since the overthrow of the Pahlavi monarchy and the establishment of the world’s first modern theocracy. The ballot will determine the political fate of Iran’s provocative president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and more broadly will signal the future of the country’s volatile political course and the prospects for improvement in its long-troubled relationship with Washington.

from The Great Debate:

Inventory-driven U.S. recovery may be delayed

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John Kemp Great Debate-- John Kemp is a Reuters columnist. The views expressed are his own --

Steady improvement in manufacturing surveys, payroll data and freight movements all indicate the U.S. economy is approaching the low point in the business cycle and should hit the bottom within the next one to four months. But that does not necessarily imply a strong and sustained expansion is about to get underway.

It is possible to be optimistic that the worst of the downturn is now over (or nearly so), while remaining cautious about prospects for strong and sustained recovery once the cyclical turning point is passed.

from The Great Debate:

China’s U.S. debt overhang needs Chinese cure

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Wei Gu -- Wei Gu is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are her own. --

When U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner told students at Peking University that China's holdings of U.S. Treasury bonds were safe, his answer drew loud laughter from the audience.

Even economist and columnist Paul Krugman, who is often critical of U.S. economic policy, found himself defending America when he was repeatedly asked the same questions in China recently: Will you (U.S.) underwrite the value of China's holdings of U.S. government debt? Will you be prepared to pay a much higher rate of interest against the risk of high inflation and dollar depreciation?

from The Great Debate:

GM shows Obama is no Vulcan

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obama-- James Pethokoukis is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own --

Here's why the U.S. government's growing control over General Motors -- Uncle Sam may soon own some 70 percent of the troubled U.S. automaker -- is so vexing: This is supposed be the "no drama, no emotion" White House, a place where cool, calculating reason holds sway.

from The Great Debate:

Bonds swamped in fair weather or foul

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James Saft Great Debate -- James Saft is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own --

Come good news or bad, the U.S. treasury market is taking a sell now and wait for inflation later strategy.

Since May 21, Treasuries have been battered, sending the yield on 10-year bonds up by nearly 40 basis points to 3.53 percent, an enormous move in bond market terms.

from The Great Debate:

Fearing the supermen of Guantanamo

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Bernd Debusmann - Great Debate--Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own--

Americans need to be afraid, very afraid. If President Barack Obama has his way, the country will soon be at serious risk of terrorist attacks coordinated by Muslim men held in maximum security prisons from where no-one has ever escaped.

These inmates possess superhuman strength and cunning. Even in solitary confinement, they might recruit fellow inmates to the cause of al Qaeda and incite riots. They might succeed where the worst of the worst American criminals failed - break out and disappear, seamlessly blending into the community. Next thing you know -- a mushroom cloud.

from The Great Debate:

California, harbinger of hard U.S. choices

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James Saft Great Debate -- James Saft is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own --

California's fiscal train wreck should be watched warily by investors in U.S. Treasuries; as the start of a trend among states seeking bailouts, as a source of pressure on Federal funds and as a harbinger of hard choices at national level.

California voters last week rejected a finance bolstering proposal, setting the stage for billions of dollars worth of  cuts in services, layoffs and a shortened school year.

from The Great Debate:

Time for fund managers to act

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Alex Smith-GreatDebate-- Alexander Smith is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own --

It is time for shareholders to start behaving like the owners of listed companies rather than appearing as hapless bystanders as corporate disasters unfold around them.

In the U.S., the SEC move to allow institutional investors to nominate directors is a small but welcome step in the right direction. To some degree it echoes existing arrangements in Sweden, where shareholders already play a greater role in nominating and approving directors.

from The Great Debate:

Auto plant wars sparked decline of industry

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dewar-headshot-150x150-- Robert J. Dewar is a former Ford Motor Company general foreman and author of A Savage Factory: An Eyewitness Account of the Auto Industry’s Self-Destruction. He currently lives in Cincinnati, OH and runs a successful packaging business with his wife and family. The views expressed are his own. --

The war in the auto plants never ended. It flared up and died down, but it never ceased. Management and labor circle each other like sumo wrestlers searching for an opening. Like any war, it ignores honesty, human dignity and common sense. Like any conflict, it leaves collateral damage.

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