given the incredible political drama that has been playing out in Tehran since rigged June elections, the White House and Congress need to rethink earlier deadlines. Iran’s political elite is still convulsed in internal power struggles, whose results aren’t clear yet. The worst thing the administration could do would be to take action that strengthens Iran’s ultra-hard-liners while making the United States look weak.
To understand Obama’s options, it’s necessary to look backward. Before the disputed Iranian elections, the Obama team sent a letter to the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The letter reportedly laid out a framework to resolve the question marks over Iran’s nuclear program and establish cooperation on regional issues.
The letter was in keeping with Obama’s campaign pledge to “engage” with Iran to reshape relations. Unconfirmed reports say the Iranians responded without commitment.
Then came Iran’s presidential elections, whose rigging sent millions of protesters into the streets. No further response has arrived from Iran since the vote, say top U.S. officials. Indeed, it isn’t even clear at this point who really controls security policy in Tehran.