The following is a guest appearance by Lawrence J. Korb, a Senior Fellow at American Progress. Mr. Korb is also a senior advisor to the Center for Defense Information and an adjunct professor at Georgetown University. Mr. Korb was also assistant secretary of defense during the administration of President Reagan. The following originally appeared in “The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists”
As talks between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany (P5+1) move to Baghdad, leaders and analysts alike are wondering whether diplomacy will be any more successful now than during previous negotiations involving the Obama administration. To answer that question, it is important to understand why the previous talks failed and what is — or might be — different now.
The previous two rounds of talks — which came in 2009, after Obama took office and almost immediately extended a hand of friendship toward Iran, and again in 2011 — failed for eight major reasons. In many of these areas, circumstances seem at least slightly improved this time around.
1. Conflicting agendas. During earlier negotiations, the Iranians and the United States were both dealing with other issues that made it difficult to compromise. The Iranians faced the consequences of the Green Revolution and the struggle for power that followed President Ahmadinejad’s fraudulent re-election. Similarly, President Obama had a full political plate, trying to deal simultaneously with the collapse of the economy, landmark health care reform legislation, ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and tensions with Russia over missile defense plans. In fact, a senior State Department official told the National Iranian American Council’s Trita Parsi that the talks had to work right away or not at all. “Our Iran diplomacy was a gamble on a single roll of the dice,” he said.
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