International efforts led by the US, and now the EU, to impose sanctions against Iran so soon after the Turkey-Iran-Brazil deal is seen by some analysts as a missed opportunity to engage Iran. Others see it as a sign that the US cannot take “yes” from Iran, meaning that it is unwilling to accept Iranian compromises.
However, if we look at Iran’s behaviour, it is in fact the Iranian leadership that has missed an opportunity to engage the United States. Since coming to office, Barack Obama has tried to reach out to Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, through his private message, sent in May 2009, calling for “co-operation in regional and bilateral relations” between the US and Iran.
This is in addition to the deal Obama offered the Iranian government last October, under which Iran was to have shipped close to 75% of its low-enriched uranium (LEU) for conversion to nuclear fuel. In order to reach that deal, Obama was willing to ignore three UN resolutions that call for Iran to suspend uranium enrichment. Not only did Khamenei reject his offer, he ordered Iranian scientist to upgrade the level of enrichment to 20%. This advanced Iran’s ability to reach levels of enrichment that can also be used to make a bomb.