Elusive Deal With Iran Could Yield Foreign Policy Legacy for Obama
August 31, 2014
by Catherine Maddux
A 15-minute phone call made just under a year ago may be what historians say set the stage for a landmark nuclear agreement with Iran – if one is achieved by a November 24 deadline.
The call between Presidents Barack Obama and Hassan Rouhani marked the first direct contact between the United States and Iran since 1979.
The subject was Tehran’s disputed nuclear program, and it opened up the door to renewed talks between Iran and the so-called P5 + 1 countries — the United States, Russia, China, the United Kingdom and France, all members of the U.N. Security Council, plus Germany.
The resumption of talks last October led to an interim deal reached in January. The Joint Plan of Action (JPA) froze Iran’s enrichment, in return granting Tehran some relief from Western-imposed economic sanctions.
The entire process is delicate as illustrated by the latest round of U.S. sanctions and Tehran’s sharp response. The penalties — which, according to media reports, are not new but meant to enforce existing sanctions —target businesses and inviduals the Obama administration says are involved in expanding in Iran’s nuclear program. Rouhani described them as a “crime against humanity,” reflecting a comparatively tougher stance towards the United States.
Still, the negotiations have raised the possibility of a historic agreement with Iran. Observers say that would provide a legacy moment for the president, whose approval ratings on foreign policy are dismally low.
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