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One-Two Punch

Authors: Charles A. Kupchan, Senior Fellow, and Brian M. Katulis
October 11, 2013


The world is watching to see if Hasan Rouhani is serious about ending Iran's nuclear standoff with the West. So far, there are reasons to be cautiously optimistic. Not only has the new Iranian president repeatedly said he intends to resolve the stalemate, but his upbeat phone conversation with President Barack Obama last month marked the first direct contact between a U.S. and Iranian president since 1979. Now, there are hints that Iran is preparing a proposal for next week's meeting of the P5+1, the group of world powers negotiating with Iran over its nuclear program.

All of this is good news -- and ensuring that Iran does not acquire nuclear weapons is the right priority for the emerging dialogue between Tehran and Washington. But Obama should also capitalize on a potential opening with Iran to pursue another urgent objective: a diplomatic end to Syria's civil war.

Obama has already embarked on the path of diplomacy in Syria, teaming up with Russia to rid Bashar al-Assad's regime of its chemical weapons. Inspectors have arrived in Syria and have begun the laborious process of destroying Assad's chemical arsenal. Obama should now try to pull Iran into the mix, seeking to turn a narrow deal focused on destroying Assad's chemical weapons into a broader effort to stop the bloodletting in Syria.

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