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"Iran-U.S. Challenges of Entering Direct Talks"

Iranian technicians work with foreign colleagues at the Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant, just outside Bushehr, Iran. Russia announced Aug. 13, 2010 that it will begin the startup next week of Iran's only nuclear power plant.
AP Photo

"Iran-U.S. Challenges of Entering Direct Talks"

Op-Ed, Iranian Diplomacy

August 16, 2010

Author: Kayhan Barzegar, Former Associate, Project on Managing the Atom/International Security Program, 2010–2011; Former Research Fellow, Project on Managing the Atom/international Security Program, 2007–2010

Belfer Center Programs or Projects: International Security; Managing the Atom; Science, Technology, and Public Policy


Despite the shared strategic interests of Iran and the United States in the region, the prospect of direct talks between the two sides remains in a precarious state. This is due to domestic policymakers' skepticism toward the ultimate success of direct engagement and the many political risks thought to be involved in such a venture. It would appear that both sides need guarantees that engagement will progress on a relatively even keel until it yields a positive result, serving their national and security interests. Only such guarantees would be able to reduce the risks of engaging in direct talks at the level of political elites.

Despite the adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 1929 against Iran and the direct role of the Obama administration in passing fresh multilateral and unilateral sanctions against Iran, the potential for direct negotiations between the two parties remains. In recent months, the stern and reproachful rhetoric normally reserved for both sides has been toned down and one can even notice positive signals emanating from both Tehran and Washington. The latest was perhaps President Ahmadinejad’s readiness to have a debate (read negotiations) with President Obama proposed during the Convention of Iranian Expatriates held in Tehran two weeks ago. President Obama also employed a cautious tone in referring to negotiations with Iran.

The driving force for direct talks is first and foremost based on 'mutual strategic needs'. For Washington, bilateral negotiations will remove Iran from the list of hostile Middle Eastern states. Such a move could have a constructive impact on overcoming regional crises, namely the Middle East Peace Process, and the unpromising prospects currently in evidence inside Iraq and Afghanistan. Progress on this front would prove crucial during the period in which president Obama plans to withdraw American troops from Iraq in two phases, at the end of this year and the summer of 2011, and in light of the Taliban’s resurgence and failure to fade from the scene in Afghanistan....

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For Academic Citation:

Barzegar, Kayhan. "Iran-U.S. Challenges of Entering Direct Talks." Iranian Diplomacy, August 16, 2010.

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