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Lobe Log: Reading Rouhani

Author: Djavad Salehi-Isfahani, Professor of Economics, Virginia Tech; Nonresident Guest Scholar, Wolfensohn Center for Development, Brookings Institution
October 9, 2013

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"Much analysis of the reasons for Iran's new conciliatory approach credits sanctions for the improved diplomatic prospects for reaching a deal. Where opinions differ is how to respond to Iran."

The diplomatic push by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to resolve the decade-long dispute over Iran's nuclear program reached its zenith during his visit to New York in late September, exactly one year after Iran's currency collapsed under the weight of US-led sanctions. Although the timing is largely accidental, the correlation between sanctions and Iran's willingness to negotiate is not. These measures have clearly hurt Iran's economy, and its leaders are searching for an agreement with the West that includes sanctions relief.

Much analysis of the reasons for Iran's new conciliatory approach credits sanctions for the improved diplomatic prospects for reaching a deal. Where opinions differ is how to respond to Iran. Should the West begin with positive gestures and take steps to ease sanctions or tighten them to squeeze a better deal from an adversary in retreat. The question then becomes: whose side is time on?

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