Newburyport Daily News
---- — What are we to make of Iran’s most recent overtures to the United States?
Well, it would appear that economic sanctions imposed on that country — in response to its advancing nuclear program — are inflicting pain. The new Iranian president, Hasan Rouhani, indicates he is hoping to open a dialogue with the West in an effort to ease those sanctions.
Iran’s economy is struggling under sanctions. And Rouhani is a moderate (at least in Iranian terms) who is interested in finding solutions to his nation’s economic hardships. Hence the professed willingness to discuss nuclear matters.
But talking and doing are two different things. And where Iran is concerned, no one should lose sight of the fact that no matter how agreeable the president may seem to be, it’s the fundamentalist clerics and the Revolutionary Guard who call the shots in that country.
Still, the current effort is newsworthy, because it has been 35 years since the United States and Iran held high-level talks. Not surprisingly, this shift — even if it is little more than symbolic — is drawing interest and criticism.
As you might suspect, concerns are being raised in some quarters that talks might lead to an easing of pressure on Iran to make its nuclear program more transparent and to ensure it is not developing atomic weapons.
Obviously, any agreements need to be verified in a manner that opens the door on Iran’s nuclear activities. Empty promises are worthless.
Despite the potential for failure or other problems, we support talks with Iran. We believe it is in America’s long-term interests to explore options for achieving this nation’s goals in the Middle East short of armed intervention. And that’s precisely what has been considered as an option for thwarting Iranian nuclear ambitions.
It may be that Rouhani has concluded his country’s nuclear program is a dead end, and not worth the risks associated with it. If so, that’s a positive development to foster. The challenge would be to advance negotiations along those lines without sparking a reaction from Iranian hard-liners who are likely to see benefit in the possession of nuclear arms.
Rouhani is displaying diplomatic skills that were decisively lacking in his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. As a result of this shift, it is essential that the international community recognize that charm and reasonable words are not substitutes for meaningful agreements.
Any talks between the United States and Iran should be seen as preliminary and likely to be part of a long process in order to achieve results. Diplomacy can be slow and frustrating. But handled properly, it is far better than conflict.