Four years after President Barack Obama famously extended his hand of friendship to Iran, Tehran finally seems willing to unclench its fist. The most decisive geopolitical handshake of this decade may take place today at the United Nations.
Iran’s new president Hassan Rouhani and Obama may have this encounter at the luncheon of U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon Tuesday or in the U.N building’s corridors.
This new opening has taken the world by surprise. Washington’s dual track policy over the past three years — a combination of a little bit of diplomacy and a whole lot of strangulating sanctions — has produced a hardening of the Iranian position. Tehran’s nuclear activities have continued unabated, while its regional policies, particularly its support for the Assad regime in Syria, have intensified.
Both sides seemed to be preparing for a long fight, where perseverance would determine the outcome.
Almost no one in the U.S. government expected the Iranian elections to change this — and certainly not by voting in Iranian pragmatists, who had been pushed to the margins of Iranian politics over the past eight years.