Suzanne Maloney, an Iran specialist at the Brookings Institution’s Saban Center, said she doubted that the current Iranian government would be more eager to reach a deal with the U.S. now.
“I can understand the argument intellectually, but it seems very unlikely,” she said. “When push comes to shove, it’s not going to be that easy for us or for them” to resolve the nuclear issue.
Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council, also expressed doubts.
The Obama administration “wants the best out of the situation, but I’m not sure they will get it,” he said.
However, over the weekend, Republican Sen. Richard G. Lugar of Indiana, ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, backed the administration’s overtures.
Bruce Riedel, a former senior official on the White House National Security Council dealing with Iran, compared the situation to past dealings with communist nations.
“Our national interest is best served by engaging with Iran, just like it was best served by engaging with the Soviet Union and even China after Tiananmen. The logic of why we want to engage doesn’t change, but the politics becomes more difficult.”
The West has accused Iran of pursuing a nuclear weapon under the cover of a civilian program, but Tehran insists its efforts are for peaceful purposes. The United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China have invited Iran’s nuclear negotiator to a meeting and have offered a package of political and economic incentives. Iran has yet to respond.
The Obama administration also lifted a ban on inviting Iranian diplomats to events at U.S. embassies and consulates abroad. In fact, it actively encouraged American missions to include Iranians in their upcoming July Fourth celebrations.
“There is no thought to rescinding the invitations to Iranian diplomats,” Mr. Kelly said.
Barbara Slavin, Jon Ward and Eli Lake contributed to this report.
Nicholas Kralev is The Washington Times’ diplomatic correspondent. His travels around the world with four secretaries of state — Hillary Rodham Clinton, Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell and Madeleine Albright — as well as his other reporting overseas trips inspired his new weekly column, “On the Fly.” He is a former writer for the weekend edition of the Financial Times and ...
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