- Under President George W. Bush, the United States and Iran twice engaged in extended and substantive diplomatic talks.
- In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, bilateral U.S.-Iranian contacts produced the most significant cooperation since the 1979 revolution, as Iranian officials helped the United States form a new Afghan government. Despite this, only weeks later, President Bush included Iran in the “axis of evil,” and threatened to use force to halt its nuclear program.
- Iran persisted for more than a year to offer assistance to the United States, first in Afghanistan and then Iraq. But Washington failed to accept any of Tehran’s offers.
- In 2007, talks were held between top U.S. and Iranian envoys in Iraq. These exchanges were highly confrontational, but Iranian behavior in Iraq did moderate somewhat thereafter.
- During his first year in office, President Barack Obama tried unsuccessfully to open a high-level dialogue with Iran, while at the same time seeking to bypass the populist and confrontational President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in favor of the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
- In both Tehran and Washington, engagement comes at a heavy domestic political cost.
- A breakthrough on the nuclear front could expand the room for dialogue on other issues.
- Yet since Ahmadinjad’s disputed reelection, Iran’s leadership has become even more heavily factionalized, with hardline elements associated with the Revolutionary Guard gaining greater influence, making any breakthrough more difficult.
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"The Iran Primer"--Book Overview
The world’s most comprehensive website on Iran, “The Primer” brings together 50 experts—Western and Iranian—in concise chapters on politics, economy, military, foreign policy, and the nuclear program. It chronicles events under six U.S. presidents. It also has leader bios, timelines, data on nuclear sites—and context for what lies ahead. Click here for a hardcopy. New articles are added at the top.