PrintPrint EmailEmail ShareShare CiteCite


Will Iran Cut a Deal?

Author: Fred Kaplan
September 27, 2013


Two things seem clear from Hassan Rouhani's excellent adventure in New York City this week. First, something new is afoot. No Iranian president in 34 years has spoken so pragmatically or appeared so keen for a deal with the West as this one. Nor has an Iranian foreign minister met with his American counterpart, as Mohammad Javad Zarif did with John Kerry on Thursday—much less announce afterward that nuclear negotiations will begin in three weeks, with a mutually set goal of finalizing an accord within a year. If all this is a ruse, it's a baroquely elaborate one.

But, second, this high-speed high-wire act—while potentially triumphant—is fraught with risk; it's a bold but delicate business.

The first loud signal that Rouhani might not be a Persian replay of Mikhail Gorbachev, as his advance team had led many Westerners to hope, came when he ignored the message from the White House that during a break at the U.N. General Assembly President Obama would be open to an "encounter"—a handshake in a hallway, maybe a brief chat on the side.

No, this wasn't a "snubbing," as critics of both presidents snarled (or, in the case of Obama's critics, jeered). But it probably did indicate that, when it comes to bargaining away his country's nuclear program, Rouhani has less latitude than he'd been suggesting in his pre-trip rhetoric. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei may have let him give peace talks a chance, especially if they resulted in an easing of economic sanctions. But these talks would be formal, which is to say observable by aides (some of them likely Khamenei's agents) around the table. There were to be no private whispers with an American president. (Rouhani, when he wants to, speaks fluent English.)

View full text of article.

More on This Topic


Playing Small on Iran

Author: Ray Takeyh
Washington Post

The United States must stop underestimating its power in order to reach a negotiated nuclear settlement with Iran, according to Ray Takeyh.


Obama’s Losing Bet on Iran

Authors: Max Boot and Michael Doran
New York Times

Max Boot and Michael Doran argue that the Obama administration's efforts to achieve a diplomatic breakthrough with Iran have contributed to...


Don't Get Suckered By Iran

Authors: Ray Takeyh and Mitchell B. Reiss
Foreign Affairs

Ray Takeyh and Mitchell B. Reiss call on policymakers to fix the problems with the interim accord between Iran and the P5+1 countries.


Iran's Weak Hand

Author: Ray Takeyh
Washington Post

Iran's political stability, coupled with patience and firmness from the United States could lead to a U.S. upper hand in nuclear...