We should expect a horrific human toll from any exchange of hostilities between Iran and Israel ("Nuclear saber-rattling," Jan. 6).

Steps toward avoiding that, such as your editorial call for an intricate U.S.-Tehran agreement, are morally well-intentioned. But it wouldn't disturb our rest if these were Buddhist monks developing nuclear power for Nepal. Why not? Because common sense says their benign intentions are trustworthy and they respect human life.

The Tehran mullahs have rebuffed (to say the least) real dialogue with everyone on nuclear and related matters. They have repeatedly and clearly stated their willingness — even eagerness — to take human lives, including presumably those close to them and their own, for reasons justified by their misguided theological views.

They seem even more comfortable with causing mass destruction than Booth was with shooting Lincoln. Your editorial call for a deal overlooks their death wish for us all. This wish overrides good intentions.

The U.S., the Iranian people, Israel and the rest of the world would be more effectively served by all of us taking every possibly step to strengthen Tehran's internal opposition and to remove the hands presently in power off the nuclear button. Failing this, darkness is descending.

Walter Weinstein, Owings Mills