Talking to Iran has helped the US

Critics argue that the recent International Atomic Energy Agency report proves that the Obama administration’s policy of engagement has been a waste of time, allowing Iran to make progress toward a bomb without feeling the pain of tougher sanctions. But this myopic view ignores the fact that engagement has created an unprecedented international consensus on the need for coercive action.

By offering an outstretched hand directly to Tehran, the Obama administration clearly exposed the Iranian regime’s erratic behaviour to the rest of the world and legitimised its eventual move to pursue punitive measures. President Obama’s direct outreach to the Iranian people in a series of speeches and media appearances sent the message that the US wants to move beyond what in his Cairo speech he called the “tumultuous history” between the two countries. Concrete offers to support a civilian nuclear programme, such as the proposal earlier this month to help Iran purchase medical isotopes on the international market, deprived Iran of excuses for its behaviour. These steps also garnered additional support for US leadership on Iran from other countries.

The engagement policy has also improved ties with Russia, “resetting” the bilateral relationship and creating an atmosphere that allowed for productive, substantive dialogue with Moscow on Iran. And Russia has played a highly constructive role in the past year. Moscow came forward with the proposal to have Iran send most of its … >>>

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